he omens were there if you looked. A month before the election, I’d driven from Pittsburgh to the Philadelphia suburbs and saw nothing but Trump/Pence signs. In three days I covered about 1,200 miles of back roads and highway – some of the prettiest country you can find on this continent – and saw not one sign, large or small, in support of Clinton. The only time any mention of her was made at all was on an enormous billboard bearing her face with a Pinocchio nose.
I did see Confederate flags. James Carville, the political strategist, recently quipped that Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between, and there is some truth to that. There are a lot of men in camouflage jackets. There are a lot of men out of work. When you stop at gas stations, the magazine sections are overwhelmed by periodicals devoted to guns, hunting and survival. Then there are the tidy farms and rolling hills, the equestrian centres with their white fences, the wide swaths of Amish and Mennonites and Quakers.
“Faithful” is most successful when describing the everyday details and habits of Manhattan: the supervisor who runs the pet store “as if it’s a small, corrupt country,” the takeout deliveryman “who always seems in the grip of some great and quiet sorrow.” If you can hang up your disbelief and surrender to the soft-focus glow, the book becomes enjoyable, satisfying even, as the mystery of the postcards is solved and the catharses arrive right on schedule.
It is the unfortunate burden of African writers that their work is often reduced to representation: as though they existed to describe and diagnose the state of their home countries, or worse, the entire continent. Yet this burden, in the hands of a brilliant writer, can be an opportunity