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Review: Hum if You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais

Title: Hum if You Don't Know the Words
Author: Bianca Marais
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 415
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)South Africa

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Life under apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village, struggles to raise her children alone. The two are brought together by the Soweto Uprising, a protest by black students that ignites racial conflict and leaves Robin's parents dead and Beauty's daughter missing. In the aftermath, Beauty is hired to care for Robin, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty reunites with her daughter, Robin could loser her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences.

Review: I love a book set outside the United States and one that explores relationships so I enjoyed this book.

The characters really carry this book. Beauty is wonderful, smart, and thoughtful. She is a good vehicle for showing the pains of apartheid. She is educated and yet has to play the role of a maid in order to stay in the white city. Beauty's charge, Robin, is a precocious ten-year-old whom I found annoying and clueless even though she is well intentioned. 

The story is good though it is painful to read the words of white characters who had no thought or respect for black South Africans. Their actions and words show just how awful it was for blacks during (and I assume after) apartheid. The author has a post script about her own life growing up in South Africa, which adds a lot to the story. She knows of what she writes and it shows in the authenticity of the novel.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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