Review by Booklist Review
They named the baby Mandla. Born on the same day that Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, the boy was given the name, which means strength or power in Zulu, by the Black staff at the orphanage. The lives of three women intertwine around Mandla in this novel, set in South Africa in the early 1990s. His mother, Zodwa, impregnated by rape, was separated from her son just after he was born. He was left on the doorstep of two sisters, Ruth and Delilah, at their family farm. While Ruth, who never had a child of her own, loves Mandla in an instant, disgraced former nun Delilah has her own hidden past to confront. Amid the chaos of white supremacists, racism, and the AIDS epidemic, each woman is searching for her own path toward mending a broken heart. This earnest novel burns with the consequences of forbidden romance, betrayal, and the redemptive power of love.--Bridget Thoreson Copyright 2019 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Marais's lovely sophomore novel (after Hum If You Don't Know the Words) follows three women who connect in surprising ways in a newly postapartheid South Africa. Seventeen-year-old Zodwa, once a promising high school student, returns home pregnant and in disgrace to a squatter town outside Magaliesburg. After nearly 40 years of estrangement, sisters Ruth and Delilah reluctantly return to their family farm near Magaliesburg, each looking to find closure from past mistakes. Each woman has her personal struggles: Zodwa hides the details surrounding her pregnancy and cares for her tuberculosis-stricken mother; former stripper Ruth drinks herself through her third divorce; and Delilah refuses to disclose the mysterious circumstances surrounding her sudden return from a humanitarian mission in central Africa. All their lives become intertwined when Ruth and Delilah find an abandoned newborn on their doorstep. Set against the backdrop of the Mandela presidency, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, and the burgeoning AIDS epidemic, the story offers a look into the staggering emotional cost of secrecy, broken family bonds, racism, and sexual violence. Marais once again showcases her talent for pulling beauty from the pain of South African history with a strong story and wonderfully imperfect characters. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Following her debut, Hum if You Don't Know the Words, Marais returns to South Africa, this time in the early 1990s on the cusp of the election of Nelson Mandela, bringing readers into the lives of three women experiencing self-doubt. There's 17-year-old Zodwa, who feels as if she's disappointed her mother by becoming pregnant and, at the same time, is developing feelings for her best friend; former nun Delilah, experiencing guilt about abandoning her faith and the family she never knew; and socialite Ruth, whose addiction issues mask deep-seated feelings of insecurity. Incorporating characters from her first book, Marais shows how the lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah overlap in unexpected ways. Zodwa's coming of age during the threat of civil war and the AIDS epidemic leads her to uncover long-buried secrets about her absent brother, and about herself. Ruth and Delilah, meanwhile, decide to foster a Khumalo child amid hostility from their Afrikaner neighbors--and are forced to reckon with their pasts in the process. VERDICT As with her debut, Marais excels at creating compelling characters; readers will be turning the pages, wondering what life has in store for each. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/19.]--Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Three South African women entwine their lives as each fights to be a mother in this novel by a white South African living in Toronto.The story, centered on two well-to-do Afrikaner sisters tended by an impoverished black teenager, shares elements with The Help. Marais, as she demonstrated in her first book, Hum If You Don't Know the Words (2017), likes stories of unexpected collisions between white and black women, all in turmoil. The new book begins with 17-year-old Zodwa seeking out a village healer for a concoction brewed to end a pregnancy. In Chapter 2, the action switches to an orphanage in Zaire, where aid worker Delilah receives a mysterious letter that requires her immediate return to South Africa. Meanwhile, Ruth, after a run of plastic surgeries and men, is staging her own faux suicide to hang on to her latest husband. Both Zodwa's and Ruth's missions fail. In this thickly plotted novel, readers discover on Page 40 that the prim Delilah, once a Catholic novitiate, is sister to Ruth, "South Africa's Wild Child." The tired virgin/whore duo converge on the family homestead, a failed avocado farm, to see their quarrels interrupted by the delivery of a black newborn on their doorstep. Ruth determines to adopt the boy even as Delilah faces the consequences of giving up a son from her own long-ago teen misfortune. Then Zodwa, more than a year postpartum, tracks down her child and signs on as the sisters' maid. Shame animates all three protagonists, who lubricate these pages with tearsit's hard to think of another novel with as much weeping. Marais strikes a jaunty tone even as she salts her story with rape, HIV, racism, and homophobia. The writing is breathless and fraught: "Zodwa closes her eyes and feels a spark of hope she never knew she was so desperately seeking."Every character could use a copy of Girl, Stop Apologizing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.