Sunday, February 07, 2010

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

A Story of Comfort in Desolation - Copyright-1948. This was a very good, old book, but a true feel for the place and time it was written. The author is African. It is hard at first to read because of the Zulu words and the broken English yet it still flowed enough to keep reading. I am glad I did. It is full of religion, culture and tradition. The feeling you get right from the beginning is of mourning and sadness. It doesn't get better for a long time. A man, a humble priest, takes a journey to gather his family and finds heartache around every corner, not only for his family but for his nation.

He discovers his sister is without her husband and has a child. She is involved in prostitution and making illegal alcohol. Her friends are not good for her or her child. He talks her into leaving that life and letting him take her and her son back to his tiny village. (She doesn't end up going but the child does.) Then he tracks down his son but in the process finds sad realities of poverty and crime all around. They are in Johannesburg, South Africa and to this man, who is getting old it is a very big city and full of confusing new things. Really nice people along the way go out of their way to help him on his quest. The city has so many people living there that houses are not made fast enough so people live in shacks and near the sides of railroads. He finds his son finally and an unmarried girl with child. The son gets arrested for murder and the child that he got pregnant (she was only like 13 or something) goes with him back his village and his sweet wife so he can help her and the unborn grandson. Before they leave he arranges with friends in the church to have his son marry her. But the story now gets more complex because the man's son murdered coincidentally the son of a rich white man that lives near their village. They know each other. This is when the story really gets good because we see how lives can change and the power of forgiveness in each person, when given the opportunity to make something right, can make a difference. Despite prejudices and broken hearts healing can take place. The rich man is touched by some of the writing his dead son had been working on and had a dream that the rich man tries to make a reality. He helps the people in the humble village and tries to help his grandson see what South Africa is really like not what other white children learn. He wants to show compassion and love through serving all men not just white men but black men too.

I really liked this story. I think the author did a great job making us understand individuals and choices that connect us together despite being strangers in the same world. We are all connected and children of God, white, black, rich or poor, uneducated or learned. We also see how the consequences of an action have effects on generations to come. They can't be fixed overnight but take time and love. Also it takes people to speak out and take a stand when they know something is wrong or right.

The book was written at a time of great political problems...There was no equality between white and blacks in South Africa, boycotts on buses and strikes in the mines were attempted. Shanty Town was erected and gold was found in Odendaalsrust, which made the economy turn upside down for a while. Also people were out of work and schools were not big enough to hold all the children that needed an education. Gangs were started. There was no common belief or bind to hold the people and families together after they left their small villages ruled by a chief and drifted to the cities that were too full to notice another hungry person. A complete break down in society right under everyone's nose. The jails were full and times were hard. BUT their were churches and Christians trying to make a difference. Followers of these faiths and missionaries continued to try to make a dent in the lives of God's children. They put aside color. They reached out to the poor and lifted the hearts of the people they touched. Even though I am not catholic I was impressed with the change in others when they found Christ.

This is a WHOLE and HEALING book. I recommend it for reference if you are studying Africa or apartheid or interested in gaining a testimony of the atonement of Christ.

1 comment:

kim said...

Thanks for the review--I skimmed it because I am about to start that book for next month's book club, but its nice to hear another person talk about how much they liked it. I tried to start it a few weeks ago and just had a hard time getting into it, so I'll just try again.