This novel is set in South Africa, and follows a family of Jews who immigrated there from Lithuania between the wars. The father, Abel, came first and established a business repairing clocks and watches, and the mother, Gitelle and two children Rively and Isaac followed a couple of years later. Some of the story is from Gitelle, but the main part of the story is from Isaac. Gitelle has a secret, but we don't find out the full extent of it until the very end of the book. She longs to be able to bring the rest of her family to South Africa from Lithuania, but first finance stands in the way, and later the laws enacted agains such immigration. Her hope is for a better home in a nicer area with her entire family and she instills this drive in Isaac. First she discourages Isaac from playing with the black children near them, and encourages him to find ways to earn money, whether legitimate or not. This drive sometimes leads to success by Isaac, but more often his actions lead to him losing jobs or opportunities. His Jewishness is always a factor in his success or failure. Even when he defies his mother to take a job working for someone else, his hard work there doesn't overcome the issue of race. Bonert's South African roots make the story come alive through the use of language throughout the book, and one really gets a sense of place from this. I read this book in only a couple of days, not being able to put it down once I got into it.
Jun 12, 2013