"These days, people live in the world as though they are precious vessels, separate, each holding something that must be guarded. But his grandfather taught him something different. We are doorways, openings into something greater than ourselves, something that we don't understand and will never understand. We have nothing precious in and of ourselves. We are only precious in that we are part of something that is too big to know."
It's About: This is a historical fiction telling of the mid-1970's South African war between the ANC and the government over apartheid. It tells of Isaac Muthathe's escape into Botswana. Isaac has had the rare fortune of being sent to medical school by his mother's employers. He leaves South Africa because as a black man he has witnessed his friend be murdered for no apparent reason and realizes that he is next. He buys his passage to freedom traveling in a hearse underneath a coffin carrying a late South African official. He is plunked in free soil with nothing but the clothes on his back. When he comes into consciousness he is being watched by a woman and a white dog. The woman shows him kindness and the white dog never leaves his side. By a twist of fate, he crosses path with Amen, a school acquaintance who is heavily involved in the work of the ANC. He makes every attempt to get away from Amen. He finds his way into the old village where a white woman, Alice Mendolssohn, hires him to garden. The rest of the story contrasts the truest beauty of life and the abhorrent ugliness of humans to one another and to the earth.
I Thought: Anyone who has read BookBelle for any length of time knows that I either love or hate most books. There is not a lot of middle ground here.
So I go on record here to say that this is easily going to be one of my Top 5 reads for a long, long time.
This story is one I will foist onto anyone who asks me what to read.
This is a wisdom story. It parallels the story of Job from the Bible. It is a story of people who desperately want to believe in God, but have been disappointed one too many times.
"She had heard those women's voices sing, slow and deep like wind. Help me, God. She had never, not since she was eleven or twelve, believed in a Being of that sort, with fingers in every human pie, but she wanted Him now."
This is a story of hope.
"...one of his professors in medical school had been researching nerve regeneration. The peripheral nervous system, he'd said, was capable of regrowth. At a wound site, after the debris of damaged tissue is cleared away, Schwann cells form clusters that secrete substances that assist axons inn the formation of bridges between the two segments of a severed nerve.
Some core thing in him was still intact, he knew, capable of ghosted feeling. He could feel fear, a sign that his body wanted to live. And he felt something akin to love.... So he was not dead, he thought, only diminished by something that had severed feeling from the rest of him. He had not yet cleared away the debris. He was at the numbness state: severed nerves without bridges. But perhaps that wasn't the end."
Recommendation: Not only should you read it, but you should buy a copy to share and another copy for your own bookcase. It is one you will want to re-read periodically through your life. It is transforming.