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 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 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.
My Mini Thoughts
I really enjoyed this one! I loved that the chapters alternate between Beauty and Robin. I don’t know a lot about Africa or the Apartheid, so this book was very eye opening even if it is a work of fiction. Beauty and Robin come from completely different lifestyles and it was so interesting to read.
My heart strings tugged for Beauty because she would stop at nothing to find Nomsa. No matter how many death threats she received or how many false leads she followed. With that said, I could have used more of a background on Nomsa. How involved was she with the uprising? I think reading about her journey would have been very interesting.
I didn’t know what to think of Edith. Yes, she never wanted to be a mother, but Robin is her responsibility now. So when she gets her flight attendant job back, she takes it and is gone. That was ok to me because that’s when Victor and his friends and Beauty came in to Robins life. I really liked reading about Victor and his friends, and it was just heartbreaking when they got attacked. I also liked that Maggie introduced Beauty to Edith and Robin.
This book will bring out all the feelings in you. Some ladies in the buddy read said they cried/teared up at points, and I can see why. I would highly recommend this book!
Book Rating: 4/5
For the grand finale this would pair nicely with a Shannon Reserve Chardonnay 2016.