47 pages 1 hour read

Dinaw Mengestu

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2007

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Chapters 1-3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

Sepha Stephanos, the narrator, greets his friends Kenneth and Joseph as they arrive at his store, where they meet weekly on Tuesday nights to spend time together. Seventeen years ago, the three men worked together at a local hotel soon after they arrived in the US as refugees from different countries in Africa. Sepha came from Ethiopia, Kenneth from Kenya, and Joseph from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Now—May 2—Sepha owns a local market store, Kenneth is an engineer, and Joseph works as a waiter in a high-end Washington, DC, restaurant. The manager of the hotel where they used to work nicknamed Sepha’s friends, “Ken from Kenya,” and “Congo Joe.” Sepha never received a nickname because he was so skinny everyone could easily remember he was Ethiopian.

Sepha’s store is in the Washington, DC, neighborhood of Logan Circle, which is experiencing gentrification. The store is not doing well. Although he installed a new deli counter, he has only sold three deli sandwiches since January. Sepha didn’t even open the store 10 days last month. His friend Kenneth checks his books and asks Sepha if he even cares about the store.