Book Review: Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Cry, the Beloved CountryCry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is one that will stay with me.

It defies the descriptors – beautiful, yes, but spare; evocative, yes, but universal; finely wrought, yes, but poured out in one extended cry for justice.

Paton weaves together parallel lives; an odyssey or two (physical and spiritual); lost sheep and prodigals to teach us of place and identity and cultures in a way that haunts and convicts and leads us to do more.

Paton explores ideas of justice, politics, economics, religion, and culture. Sometimes, they seem like expositional asides – mines, stock market, etc -, but always they tie back into the story and the choices the characters make.

Paton’s structure was perfectly executed. From following Kumalo in Book I and Jarvis in Book II; their own paths to discovery how best to serve their beloved South Africa and their people. Book III the drawing them together. Yes. When Kumalo’s and Jarvis’ paths cross in Johannesburg, yet not in their common home region, the reader feels the weight of the separation of communities. Separation and non-interaction is the problem. The two strands are woven.

It isn’t a long book, each chapter is easy to approach, but it is a feeling book. I ended with 50 pages to go and tears streaming down my face. There are ends and there is hope. There is despair and there is a sun.

This is a book that leaves one aching for reconciliation and believing that it is possible.

5000 stars.

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  1. I finished reading that book a couple weeks ago and I completely agree. An absolutely amazing book and one that will stay with me for a long time. I kept feeling so sad to think all that was coming to come to South Africa in the years following when he wrote that book in the late 40s. It also really made me wonder what it is like now.

    1. A dear friend of mine from church emigrated from South Africa when she was 8. I can't wait to talk with her about this book.

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