Book Review: Bingo's Run, by James A. Levine

This review originally ran in the Friday, January 10th, 2014 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't already subscribe, sign up here for a bi-weekly dose of bookish goodness in your inbox.

Bingo is a 15-year-old orphan whose small stature often leads to him being mistaken for a child of 10. He is also the best drug-runner in the slums of Kibera in Nairobi--at least until he witnesses something he was never meant to see and finds himself under the "protection" of the drug gangs for whom he used to work.

Narrating Bingo's Run in Bingo's own voice, James Levine (The Blue Notebook) captures the innocence and confusion of this cunning, distrustful young man, forced to grow up before his time and without benefit of a family to guide him. Little more than a child, he has seen his grandparents burned to death, his mother murdered, his friends raped and his every possession stolen. It is this horrific background, though, that gives insight into the inequalities of Nairobi and Bingo's forced acceptance of them, from the bribery and corruption that steep every institution to the clash of cultures as American and European tourists descend upon Kibera.

All of this, reflecting Levine's own time in Nairobi, is fascinating in its own right, but even more interesting than the portrait of the place is the portrait of the young boy found hidden among all the chaos--seeking, like so many other children, to be loved.


  1. Fabulous review. . . I'm so jealous you were in Shelf Awareness!!!

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! I write a few reviews a month for Shelf Awareness (and occasionally some other posts as well) and try to link up to them from here when I remember :-)

  2. Is this as heart-breaking as it sounds? The cover is gorgeous though!

  3. I loved this book. Heartbreaking but funny too...a weird mix that worked.


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