Hum If You Don’t Know the Words
In 1970s Johannesburg, race is everything, yet two people who are completely incompatible in apartheid-ruled South Africa are thrown together following the 1976 Soweto Uprising. After white police open fire on peacefully protesting black schoolchildren, 9-year-old Robin Conrad's life is shattered when her parents are killed in the backlash. Meanwhile, Beauty Mbali's daughter goes missing, and Beauty's search for her coincidentally lands her a job as Robin's caretaker. As time stretches on, Beauty grows to care deeply for this child she is being paid to "love," and Robin, while fiercely possessive of Beauty, is keenly aware her parents wouldn't approve of this relationship. Readers, take note: this didn’t grab me when I tried to read it on the Little League sidelines, but at home with a cup of tea it was engrossing. Publication date: July 11.
Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.
Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-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 in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.
After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.
Told through Beauty and Robin’s alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don’t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.