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There’s a difference between authors who set out to write a novel and authors who set out to tell a story. I don’t have the space to explain that difference here, but I know some of you nodded as soon as you read that. Maryse Condé is the type of author who sets out to tell a story — and writes superb novels in the process. ,Waiting for the Waters to Rise, her latest novel, is a perfect example. At once touching and devastating, the book explores the effects of loss and grief on a personal, communal, and national level, but does so with a personal voice that feels more like a having a conversation than reading a book.
Babakar Traoré is an obstetrician living alone in Guadeloupe but surrounded — and haunted — by the memories of his childhood in Mali with his mother and the loves and friendships he’s lost. Babakar’s mother, who was called a witch because she was a Black woman with blue eyes, regularly visits him in his dreams and helps guide his life, but that does little for his loneliness. When Babakar is called to a house to attend a birth, he gets there too late, the mother, an undocumented Haitian immigrant, is dead and the newborn girl is alone. Babakar adopts the girl on the spot and names her Anaïs.