MAKEDA is the title character of Randall Robinson’s astounding, thought provoking, and highly engaging novel. A blind retired “laundress,” Makeda’s life is anchored in her tiny, often sun-filled, parlour in Richmond, Virginia. Her modest circumstances, after a life of hardship, stand in stark contrast to her appearance and demeanor: at home, at church and in the market, she is usually clad in richly embroidered beautiful African gowns and she radiates wisdom and emotional strength, instilling respect wherever she goes. Some unknown visitors leave gifts for her, or speak to her as if she were somebody elseвЂ¦
Eternity is an unusual young woman and an effervescent storyteller. She shares her life story in short, action-packed episodes that are embedded in evocations of colourful West-African ambience, and, underlying these, insights into societal and political upheaval in the fictional West Cassavaland, realistically set in that part of Africa. Adopted at birth and raised by two white scientists, Stevedore and Juliet Frankenheimer, she symbolizes a self-confident, stunning beauty – “pitch black and shimmering like the purple outer space of the universe.” However, she carries a secret that, once she is aware of it, will fundamentally influence the course of her life.
We meet the protagonist of THE BOY NEXT DOOR, Lindiwe Bishop, when she is just fourteen. The white woman next door, Mrs. McKenzie, mother of Ian, has just burned to death. Set afire. It is Africa in the 1980s and Robert–Bob–Mugabe has just taken his oath, вЂњ… his hand firmly on the Bible…and so help me God…Zimbabwe was born.вЂќ This is the stage set, at the intersection of culture and identity (personal and national), in the opening pages of this delicate and beautiful debut novel.
October 11, 2009
В· Judi Clark В· One Comment
Tags: Africa, Little Brown & Co, Time Period Fiction В· Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, Coming-of-Age, Debut Novel, Facing History, Orange Prize, Reading Guide, World Lit