We Meant Well
Longlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize
September 2023 selection for Great Group Reads by the Women’s National Book Association
“Unsparing and compassionate … A novel of harrowing eloquence, We Meant Well explores compelling cultural contrasts and the ambiguity of charitable outreach.” — Foreword Reviews
A propulsive debut that grapples with timely questions about what it means to be charitable, who deserves what, and who gets the power to decide
It’s the middle of the night in Los Angeles when Maya, a married mother of one, receives the phone call. Her colleague Marc has been accused of assaulting a local girl in Likanni, where they operate a charitable orphanage. Can she get on the next flight?
When Maya arrives, protesters surround the compound. The accuser is Lele, her former protégé and the chief’s daughter. There are no witnesses, no proof of any crime.
What happened that night? And what will happen to the orphanage if this becomes a scandal? Caught between Marc and Lele, the charity and the villagers, her marriage and new temptations, and between worlds, Maya lives the secret contradictions of the aid worker: there to serve the most deprived, but ultimately there to govern.
As Maya feels the pleasures, freedoms, and humanity of life in Likanni, she recognizes that her American life is inextricably woven into this violent reality — and that dishonesty in one place affects the realities in another.