Customer Reviews for

What Is the What

Average Rating 4.5
( 171 )
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(104)

4 Star

(42)

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(17)

2 Star

(3)

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(5)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

This book is so amazing that it would even make book club bearable

Living in Salt Lake City, one of the cities chosen by the U.N. for relocation of the displaced Sudanese refugees, I've had the chance to forge friendships with some of the so-called "Lost Boys" of Sudan. Almost without exception they're hardworking, intelligent, kind, a...
Living in Salt Lake City, one of the cities chosen by the U.N. for relocation of the displaced Sudanese refugees, I've had the chance to forge friendships with some of the so-called "Lost Boys" of Sudan. Almost without exception they're hardworking, intelligent, kind, and fun-loving guys. In fact, most of them know Achak Deng (the man the book is based on) and lived much of what he lived. The story of Achak Deng in and of itself is captivating and moving but Eggers deftly crafted the story and the dialogue to vividly bring him to life. This is one of my favorite books and has become a favorite to most of those I've referred it to. I highly recommend it to all!

posted by El_Guanaco on April 8, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

What is the ending?

This book gives the reader insight into the lives of the Lost Boys. It is told in first person by one of the Lost Boys. And, although it holds your interest easily for the first half or so of the book, it begins to bog down. And, while I'm sure that's exactly how the Lo...
This book gives the reader insight into the lives of the Lost Boys. It is told in first person by one of the Lost Boys. And, although it holds your interest easily for the first half or so of the book, it begins to bog down. And, while I'm sure that's exactly how the Lost Boys felt about their journey as well, as a reader I lose interest.

Plodding on at that point, I begin to wonder how this book will end. My suspicion was right.

posted by duguay on March 16, 2009

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  • Posted October 16, 2010

    Life-Changing Novel!

    What Is The What by Dave Eggers is the thrilling, remarkable memoir of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with other thousands of children, also known as the famous Lost Boys, faces the reality of growing up with no home to return to. When forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven, Achak and the other Lost Boys encounter man-eating lions, countless days and nights without food, and the bombing blood-bath attacks from the Arab militia. Fleeing across three countries to reach the safety refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, Achak finally finds freedom when he is chosen to live in America. Little does he know that in the United States, he will face occurrences even more difficult than his life back in Sudan, encountering a robbery in his Atlanta apartment, being held captive and beaten. I absolutely enjoyed this extraordinary novel, which brought tears to my eyes, along with countless smiles and laughter. It kept me on my toes with it's suspense in action and drama. This book will take you you to life in this third-world country, and what it feels like to watch numerous innocent villages burned to the ground.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    This book is so amazing that it would even make book club bearable

    Living in Salt Lake City, one of the cities chosen by the U.N. for relocation of the displaced Sudanese refugees, I've had the chance to forge friendships with some of the so-called "Lost Boys" of Sudan. Almost without exception they're hardworking, intelligent, kind, and fun-loving guys. In fact, most of them know Achak Deng (the man the book is based on) and lived much of what he lived. The story of Achak Deng in and of itself is captivating and moving but Eggers deftly crafted the story and the dialogue to vividly bring him to life. This is one of my favorite books and has become a favorite to most of those I've referred it to. I highly recommend it to all!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    Heartening

    Working in Africa for years, I am exposed to many heartening stories. Yet this one is done so smoothly and thoroughly to allow us to feel connected and learn more about the realities of refugee existence, war, transitioning to a new country like America, and then ultimately giving back to the Sudanese village that truly has needs.

    I appreciate the story told to the various persons Achak meets in his daily encounters in life in America. As so many immigrants and refugees do, especially a dark tall Sudanese man, they get asked so many questions about their lives. It was easy to picture him at the health centre chatting about his incredible history in the most simple of terms to a woman on her way to her seemingly meaningless challenges in comparison - to lose weight, get one more mile in, lift an extra five pounds, etc. She could never understand in a two-minute chat, unless she reads the book!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2007

    What is 'What is the What?'

    'What is the What?', David Egger's latest memoir/novel, trancends both genres-- creating something new. It's not exactly a novel, becuase it isn't fiction-- the Sudan is a real place, and 'the What' really happened there to a boy there named Valentino Achak Deng. But it isn't a memoir either because Deng didn't write it, and the author admits to creating composite characters and generally smoothing the narrative. To appreciate the tragedy of this story, it must be a memoir. I recently read 'Beasts of No Nation' and one of my problems with that story is that while it depicted a similar real tragedy: there was no real individual behind the story. The memorative quality of 'the What' makes the story more believable and the tragedy greater. But make no mistake: 'What is the What' has all appeal of a novel, and a great one. Merely writing down facts as they happened, even tragic facts like the ones here, could not build a story with the weight and power that the What has. Eggers has shown this skill of blending truth into a novel before, in 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius', and his skills have, if anything, grown since that book. This book is better than AHWOSG on many levels. Time and practice seem to have smoothed and reinfoced Eggers' prose: the writing here is not as clever but it is wiser. Also, there are symbolic levels in 'The What' not present in AHWOSG. (IE Does a Bicycle= the what? &/ the presence of Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). They say that truth is better then fiction, and also that winners write the history books. To these proverbs I would add one more: Sincerity is better than Truth. It is the blank sincerity of Eggers' writing that makes Valentino Achak Deng's story come alive-- no matter which parts were exagerated or smoothed. Deng's story is certainly a history of loss and losing, and so the old adage would say that he should be left out of the history books. But Eggers's sincere writing gives Deng the pen and the pages of a novel so good it may valued as history.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    Eye opener

    We all know there is suffering, injustice and poverty around the world. Nevertheless, we are all so involved in our own worlds, our routines, etc., that we seem to forget.
    By reading this book, you "remember" and make up your mind to stay away from the indiference and the voluntary blindness you have lived in before.
    This is a book based on a true story. All the characters presented also become very real to us. The author's writing style is very direct and all the above mentioned elements keep us turning the pages without stop until the book is finished and then we just sit down and reflect about it.
    I highly recommed it to anyone interested in what is going on with our world.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    With Gratitude...

    What a powerful, inspiring, and very moving story of one boy's journey of unimaginable tribulations. Thank you Mr. Achak Deng for sharing your story with the world. Thank you for surviving and making a positive difference!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2009

    What Is the What is a compelling, informative and touching read.

    I was drawn into the story from the beginning. I learned a lot about the situation in the Sudan and with the refugees. But I did not find it overwhelming (in a negative way). I believe the author keeps it balanced so as not to draw you down too far.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Get a real feel for what is happening in Darfur, Sudan.

    The horror of what continues to happen in Sudan is brought to real life in this book. The killings in Darfur, the escape as refugees to Ethiopia and Kenya, their lives in the camps and the opportunity for a few to create new lives in the U.S. are written for you to experience what they went through. This is a disturbing read in the story it tells but it is well written as it alternates between the past and present life of the main character. I recommend it to anyone interested in world events, however, you will wonder if this is a repeat of the holocaust and why aren't we doing more to stop the genocide and violence?

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Every Person Needs to Read this Book!

    Just the fact that this book is a personal account of one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan makes it an eye opening experience. This is a book that everyone should read. It will educate you on the events going on in the Sudan and it will break your heart to read of the travesties that have occured. Reading this story will give you an empathy for people you never knew you had and it will change your life for the better. This story is sad, happy, humorous, and devastating. Read this book today! You won't regret it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    What is the ending?

    This book gives the reader insight into the lives of the Lost Boys. It is told in first person by one of the Lost Boys. And, although it holds your interest easily for the first half or so of the book, it begins to bog down. And, while I'm sure that's exactly how the Lost Boys felt about their journey as well, as a reader I lose interest.

    Plodding on at that point, I begin to wonder how this book will end. My suspicion was right.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 20, 2009

    Eggers Delivers

    I bought this book because I loved Eggers's memoir and wanted to read more of his work. I wasn't disappointed. He is a master storyteller, bringing to light the atrocious reality of Sudanese refugees with poise and in a unique, believable voice.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2008

    A reviewer

    I am in my mid-fifties and an avid reader. I read all matter of subjects in both fiction and non-fiction. When I read to the last sentace of this book I felt privileged to have the oportunity to have read this story. I am deeply effected by the humanity and courage told. I will never again have anything but admiration for the southern Sudan people, or any other immagrant fleeing a war torn country. You wont hear me whinning again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2008

    What is the What

    I did a five page book review on this book for school and I really enjoyed this book. Although I do read a lot of books along the same subject line, this was among the best. I would definently recommend it to people who want to learn more about the Lost Boys of Sudan. However there are a lot of downfalls of the book also. So I would say read the book anyways. It was totally worth it to me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2008

    Incredibly Moving Story of Survival

    The best book I have read this year! This incredible story of how a Sudanese 'lost boy' survived will make you think about the meaning of life. It will also give you insight into the conditions of refugees in Sudan and other African nations, as well as immigrants to this country. It is a story that is at times harrowing, touching and funny. Not to be missed!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2008

    What is a great novel

    Mr Eggars is a brillant writer. (I also loved 'A Heartbreaking Work'.) Although it is a 'sad' story that he tells, this is not at all a depressing read. I was entertained, highlighted so many parts of this beautifully written novel, and enlightened. Before the US goes into other countries, stories like this should be required reading, for at least the 'diplomats'.LOL

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2008

    You will never forget this book-an incredible read.

    When I bought this book I was familiar with the author having read one of his other books. So, I knew the writing would be good. Well, this book blew me away with not only the writing, but with the incredible story behind the writing. The story of a real survivor, one of 'the lost boys' of the Sudan civil war, this book is one you will continue to think about and digest for a while. I finished the book two weeks ago and still can't stop dwelling on it. As the reader, you will learn a great deal about African politics, unimaginable suffering, friendship, the common bonds of humanity no matter where in the world you live, and yet the book is gripping and compelling and uplifting to read because of the unusual and creative way in which events are told. The book reads like one of the best fiction novels you've ever read, but yet is based on real people and events. It was difficult for the author and his collaborator to present some of the events as fact, as they were seen and remembered by a young child, and no verification was possible, thus resulting in the label 'fiction.' This does not detract from the book in the least, and you cannot help but be moved by this book. Lest you worry that the book is too depressing or moralistic or political-don't!!! The incredible spirit of the boy and man behind this story is uplifting, and you will thank yourself for having read it. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2007

    A reviewer

    I bought this book at an airport in Amsterdam thinking it might be good. I almost finished the whole book on one flight across the Atlantic. It's very hard to connect to the author, a Sudanese man living in America. His story is told frankly and in a semi-humorous way like he's used to talking about seeing children blown up to bits. Horrifying. When finished with the book, I felt more inclined to do something about Human Rights. I hope you will to.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2007

    The Definitive Book on the Lost Boys

    Eggers takes an already incredible story and makes it even better than it already is. This book is a great read that evokes incredible emotions. The trials and tribulations that the Lost Boys faced in Sudan are beautifully illustrated through Eggers amazing grasp of the English language and its usage. All in all, one of the most powerful books I have ever had the pleasure to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2007

    What an outstanding book!

    Many people asked me why I was reading such a 'depressing' book. I did not, however, find this book depressing. The resilience of the human spirit never cease to amaze me. How Valentino found his spirit and humanity through all of the tragedy that befell him is awe-inspiring. I can never complain about anything as painful as his experiences. Is that not what books should do for us--show us that there is very little that we cannot overcome? What a lesson he teaches in this book. Thank you Valentino and Dave Eggers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2009

    Amazing

    This book is a must read! Especially with what's going on currently in Sudan--a warrant out for the arrest of their president for war crimes! This book looks at the situation in Sudan from a young boy's perspective and his coming of age as he struggles to survive in his own country, refugee camps and then in the US, where he is presumably safe. Great book...hard to put down!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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