In the Company of Men

February 23, 2021
In the Company of Men

NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED READ OF THE YEAR BYMS. MAGAZINE Drawing on real accounts of the Ebola outbreak that devastatedWest Africa, this poignant, timely fable reflects on both thestrength and the fragility of life and humanity’s place in theworld. Two boys venture from their village to hunt in a nearby forest,where they shoot down bats with glee, and cook their prey over anopen fire. Within a month, they are dead, bodies ravaged by aninsidious disease that neither the local healer’s potions nor themedical team’s treatments could cure. Compounding the family’sgrief, experts warn against touching the sick. But this cautioncomes too late: the virus spreads rapidly, and the boys’ father isbarely able to send his eldest daughter away for a chance atsurvival. In a series of moving snapshots, Véronique Tadjo illustrates theterrible extent of the Ebola epidemic, through the eyes of thoseaffected in myriad ways: the doctor who tirelessly treats patientsday after day in a sweltering tent, protected from the virus onlyby a plastic suit; the student who volunteers to work as agravedigger while universities are closed, helping the teamsoverwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies; the grandmother whoagrees to take in an orphaned boy cast out of his village for fearof infection. And watching over them all is the ancient and wiseBaobab tree, mourning the dire state of the earth yet providing asense of hope for the future. Acutely relevant to our times in light of the coronaviruspandemic, In the Company of Men explores criticalquestions about how we cope with a global crisis and how we cancombat fear and prejudice.