The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah, first published in French in 2007 and released this year by Graywolf Press. Before I go any further, let me just say how much I love that cover. My uncorrected proof copy (which I received several months ago) has a large label obscuring the bottom of the design, so I didn't realize until I was searching for an image to accompany this post that the label was covering the skeletal half of the bird which, above the black band, is lifting its beak to sing. I haven't read the novel yet, but I'm assuming it represents the life-and-death dichotomy which Appanah uses as her central theme. Here's the publisher's blurb to whet your appetite:
As 1944 comes to a close, nine-year-old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world. He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family. When a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of the prison camp where his father is a guard, he meets a mysterious boy his own age. David is a refugee, one of a group of Jewish exiles whose harrowing journey took them from Nazi-occupied Europe to Palestine, where they were refused entry and sent on to indefinite detainment in Mauritius.
A massive storm on the island leads to a breach of security at the camp, and David escapes, with Raj’s help. After a few days spent hiding from Raj’s cruel father, the two young boys flee into the forest. Danger, hunger, and malaria turn what at first seems like an adventure to Raj into an increasingly desperate mission.
Here's a downright lovely blurb from Rick Simonson at Elliot Bay Book Company:
Nathacha Appanah’s The Last Brother is one of the most beautiful, contained portrayals of devastating loss and profound longing that I’ve ever read. An older man gives voice and remembrance to his younger self, bringing to vivid life a childhood marked by brutality, separation, and death, but also cunning, connection, and survival. With the lightest of touches, the author movingly conveys a child discovering his own mysteries, then navigating those of a baffling, larger world.If you'd like a chance to navigate Appanah's Mauritian world, all you need to do is answer this question:
What French literary award did Appanah receive in 2007? (You can find the answer by going to this page at the Graywolf website)
Email your answer to email@example.com
Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. One entry per person, please. Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section. Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until the contest closes at midnight on March 17--at which time I'll draw the winning name. I'll announce the lucky reader on March 18.