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The Camel Bookmobile

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In Masha Hamilton’s The Camel Bookmobile, friends of Fiona Sweeney, an idealistic New York librarian, think Fi’s new project — a mobile library delivering books to remote parts of Kenya — is slightly batty. So do many Kenyans. But just as Fi begins to make progress in the tiny settlement of Mididima, where she meets a bright girl hungry for guidance, a scandal involving missing books exposes powerful rifts within the village. The novel starts unsteadily: Fi sounds like a parody of an earnest American. The Kenyans, whom Hamilton imagines with greater skill and subtlety as the crisis worsens, emerge as the story’s most captivating characters. B+