Ivory from Paradise: A Novel of South Africa

David Schmahmann, Academy Chicago, $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-89733-612-3
In Schmahmanns (Nibble & Kuhn) haunting new novel, the circumstances surrounding a mothers death compel her son to unravel the complicated story of his family. Central to it is Gordonwood, their Durbin, South Africa estate, and the artifact collection that Silas, the family patriarch, assembled. Gordonwood was a tenuous Ivory Tower, with the precious elephant tusks to prove it. This tower was "likely to fall at any moment," and fall, it does when Silas dies suddenly and mysteriously, propelling his son Danny to Boston and Danny's sister and mother to London. His mother marries again, and her new husband, Arnold, seems intent on holding onto the precious artifacts that Silas spent his life collecting. When their mother dies, and Arnold's intentions are revealed, Danny and his sister return to Durban. There, they reunite with their beloved nanny, who "is all that remains of the past," and encounter a city "whose landmarks are dangerous to visit." Schmahmann, born and raised in Durban, has written a sad, revisionist book about the moment we realize that our paradise was in reality far from an idyll and what we prized as authentic was actually worthless. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/21/2011
Release date: 02/01/2011
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