“The Case For and Against Love Potions”
by Imbolo Mbue
from the March 22, 2021 issue of The New Yorker

Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, arrived to critical acclaim in 2016 (it has already made headlines when a few years earlier Random House bought it for $1 million). Her second novel, How Beautiful We Were, came out last week. I haven’t read any of her work, I’m afraid, so I’ll use this as an opportunity to get a glimpse.

The most notable thing for me, at the outset, is the Mbue’s narrator is addressing a specific “you.” It’s not quite second-person, though, since there is a first-person narrator whom I don’t fully trust, calling himself “the most sagacious man in this part of the country.” Seems like I’m being sold on something.

You love someone. Someone loves you not. What to do, besides find someone else to love, which, by the way, is not easy? Ah, my dear young friend, I’m so glad you came to me for advice. A quagmire of this nature requires the wisest of minds to resolve; clearly, you recognize who the most sagacious man in this part of the country is.

As you know, there are a million and three solutions to this problem, virtually none of which have a great success rate. I imagine you tried at least twenty-eight of them before coming to see me today, am I correct? No? You tried only four? It doesn’t matter. You’re here and I have the best advice for you.

Love potions.

I’m good to dive into this one! I like the voice, and as I said above I’m very ready to read something by Mbue. I’ll report back in the comments below once I’ve had a chance to read the story in its entirety. Please feel welcome to share your thoughts as well in the meantime!

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