The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

Peter Orner, Author . Little, Brown $23.95 (309p) ISBN 978-0-316-73580-3

Orner's poetic, episodic examination of the varieties of life at an isolated Catholic primary school deep in the veld of Namibia coheres around the title character, a beautiful guerrilla fighter turned kindergarten teacher. Set in the early 1990s, soon after Namibia won independence from South Africa, this impressive debut novel (after Esther Stories ) is mostly narrated by Larry Kaplanski, a young volunteer who leaves Cincinnati, Ohio, to teach English and history at Farm Goas. Orner captures Goas's glacial rhythms, the extraordinary contrast between the desert's night and day, and the community's daily privations, including—for the single male teachers—a lust arising from boredom and loneliness. Mavala Shikongo, the principal's sister-in-law and the object of her colleagues' desires, reluctantly settles at Goas with her illegitimate baby boy, Tomo. Orner punctuates Larry's observations with brief interludes told from the points of view of other inhabitants of the school, and with haunting, cinematic imagery—boys do pull-ups on a huge cross; Mavala and Larry, who become friends and intimates, hold their afternoon trysts on the graves of Boer settlers. These telling snapshots stand in for the larger sociopolitical, cultural and religious issues facing a country emerging from a century of colonization. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/06/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 311 pages - 978-0-316-06633-4
Open Ebook - 978-0-316-07526-8
Open Ebook - 245 pages - 978-0-316-16237-1
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