An illuminating debut following three women in their search for home and family in 1990s sub-Saharan Africa. 

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Politics and Prose






The Brightest Sun

Leona, an isolated American anthropologist, births a baby girl in a remote Maasai village and must decide how she can be a mother, in spite of her own grim childhood. Jane, a lonely expat wife, follows her husband to the tropics and learns just how fragile life is. Simi, a barren Maasai woman, must confront her infertility in a society in which females are valued by their reproductive roles. In this affecting debut novel, three very different women grapple with motherhood, recalibrate their identities, and confront unforeseen tragedies and triumphs. 

In beautiful, evocative prose, Adrienne Benson brings to life the striking Kenyan terrain as these women's lives intertwine in unexpected ways. As they face their own challenges and heartbreaks, they find strength traversing the arid landscapes of tenuous human connection. With gripping poignancy, The Brightest Sun explores the heartbreak of loss, the struggle to find a sense of belonging, and the surprising ways we find our family and home.


"This novel transported me from my safe little house in Iowa to a place where lions and hyenas prowl, where blood soaks into the parched earth and where a seedling can consume a living tree and become its own hollow tree with space enough for a grown woman to crawl into.  The book throbs with descriptions of the natural world that are so beautifully wrought that their thematic significance seems essential and, at some extra-sensory level, magical.  And yet what's most exciting about this story is how, in the midst of so much beauty and wildness and violence—at the dark and quiet center of it, you might say—Benson illuminates human emotion and psychology with such accuracy that you are brought home again, almost dizzily, to your own recognizable heart.  That is beautiful storytelling, and this is a beautiful novel." 


Tim Johnston, author of New York Times bestselling Descent.

“This engrossing narrative offers the experience of engaging and empathizing with cultural differences deeper than unfamiliar customs.  It can transport you to Kenya and present the doors of kinship.”   

Mary Catherine Bateson

Cultural anthropologist and author of Composing a Life and Peripheral Visions: Learning along the Way.

"Adrienne Benson's characters are complicated people, damaged by circumstances past and present; her exploration of what it takes for their wounds to heal is aglow with empathy and insight."  

Susi Wyss

Author of The Civilized World