Warner, 2004 (2003)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
r. Shelly Leanne's inspiration for her first novel,
, came from the history of African-American missionaries in South Africa in the 1800s and 1900s. The novel's timeframe is the 1930s with apartheid stirring, Africans under the rule of an outside government, political repression and social injustices. Leanne's vivid and descriptive prose allows the reader to imagine the missionaries' ship voyage (shores of South Africa '
rise up ... in the distance against the dimming sky
'), their driving through wondrous countryside, and appreciating the beauty of Xhosa culture.
he novel charts the journey of Reverend Joshua T. Clay, a black ministry graduate of Wilberforce in Philadelphia. Planning to minister at his own hometown parish, Joshua is given the opportunity to serve in South Africa. After a year of intense ministry training in the United States, Joshua apprehensively leaves his Pennsylvania family, but joyfully looks forward to preaching his faith. Joshua soon faces the reality of the treatment of native Africans by the European government in power, the prejudice, and degradation of '
' and '
'. Reverend Andrew explains to Joshua, '
there are whites, Africans, and Coloureds ... Negroes from America aren't subjected to the same laws as the natives and the Coloureds.
t the Fort Hare Mission, Joshua meets resistance to his method of preaching from both Xhosa people, and Fort Hare University students. The sponsoring-mission Board orders Joshua to preach and read the English Bible only, and not to use the marula Bible (written in the Xhosa language). As Joshua opens his heart and mind to the Africans, he realizes the needs of the Xhosa way of life and worship. Befriended by a Xhosa family, Joshua falls in love with local teacher Nongolesi, is taught the Xhosa language, and begins preaching from their Bible. He encourages the students in their desire for an extended curriculum, and supports protests against the '
' and relocations. Asked to go to the aid of jailed elderly women, Joshua becomes incensed by the mistreatment of the African prisoners and he learns that the prison is supported by the same mission funds that support Fort Hare and churches adorned with gold. '
Sometimes it's necessary to straddle lines
', says Joshua. Brother Chandler responds '
Sometimes it's necessary to cross them.
r. Leanne lived in South Africa, England, Trinidad, and Kenya, where she taught high school. Leanne's background enriches her novel's strong premise of a young man, who matures among the Xhosa (people of Nelson Mandela) during the turbulent times of European government control, '
', and relocation of settlements. The author vividly describes locations and scenery and her novel is further enhanced by Xhosa phrases such as '
gift of love
'). Though I found the story often repetitious, and slow-paced in getting to the main issues, I recommend
to those interested in reading about apartheid, bias and prejudice, coupled with the forces of love, faith, and inspiration.
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