Archive for October, 2009

The Boy Next Door

Friday, October 9th, 2009

By Irene Sabatine

The Short Take:

The main characters in Sabatini’s first novel feel completely real — as confused, conflicted, and multi-faceted as anybody in real life. The fact that her story weaves around an inter-racial couple amid the transformation of Rhodesia into Zimbabwe and the rise of Mugabe simply makes it even more fascinating. I must admit I cried at the end — for the love as well as the pain. Everyone should read this book.


This book is so much like real life. At first it took some getting used to — you’re just dropped right in and must get to know characters and their “roles” through discovery more than exposition. The dialogue can sometimes read like, “Yes. No. Wait.” But that’s how people really talk as they try to sort out what they really want to say. It all adds to this book’s exceptional believability.

Sabatini’s own life, in large respect, parallels that of her central character, Lindiwe Bishop. However, according to her, Lindiwe’s relationship with a white, largely “racialistic” young man (Ian McKenzie) is based on a “what if” not an actual experience (check out the her website link at the end to learn more).

I guess some people might call this a romance, though it certainly doesn’t unfold like one. It is filled with hesitations, foreboding, insecurities, and frustrations — just like real life. I believe Sabatini uses the core relationship as a tool to portray the complex relationships and feelings between white, black, colored, and Indian in her homeland. Both Ian and Lindiwe evolve — sometimes in surprising ways — as Zimbabwe transforms. A diverse supporting cast serves mainly to reflect these changes and the good and bad they bring.

I particularly loved the way this novel was so clear-eyed about the disappointment, fear, and prejudice — as well as the goodness — found in people of every shade. I am so glad I read this book. It gave me a new degree of understanding as well as taking me on a wonderful journey.

A Little Plot:

Next door to 15 year-old Lindiwe, a white woman is burned to death. Her teenage stepson is accused but finally released, though not exactly exonerated. One day he offers Lindiwe a ride. This is the very tentative beginning of their relationship. However, finding one’s soul mate in the worst possible person for their place and time is not something either seems anxious to pursue. Their connection doesn’t grow by romantic stealth. It is companionship that grows into friendship based on better mutual understanding.

Yet, both still have secrets and both have fears. As people would say: It’s complicated. Frankly, that’s what makes it so great to read.

For more about Irene Sabatini and her book, click here. It has some footage from a book signing that I think you’ll find particularly interesting.

Kindle: My New Flame

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The Short Take:

The screen actually looks like paper. It even has a matte look. Wow.


I’ve been intrigued by the idea of the Kindle, Amazon’s proprietary, computerized version of a book — actually a lot of books stored in one very light-weight package. But I really couldn’t imagine liking it. After all, my biggest irritation with laptops is that the screens are pretty much impossible to see outside except on the dreariest of days — and who wants to be outside then?

Plus the only way to try one out is to know somebody who has a Kindle or actually buy one from Amazon. Unfortunately, most people I know aren’t anxious to trade in the feel and smell of real books for some cold and possibly complicated alternative.

Then I went to the Pink Palace Craft Fair where Dorothy Northern, an exceptionally talented jewelry creator, graciously let me play with her Kindle.

I’m not sure about love, but it was definitely extreme like at first sight.

The screen was a shocker. It looked like ink on paper. Truly. And you can easily change the type size if you forget your glasses. Dorothy assured me the battery power was good enough to easily last through a trans-Atlantic flight. And she mentioned how just before she was leaving for a holiday, she decided to down load more guide books and maps, and bam, it was done.

Yep. This baby works independently. No computer needed, though you can transfer Kindle books to your computer if you want to. It doesn’t require a wi-fi hot spot and there are no connection or service fees. It holds a whole lot of books, too — claims 1500. And it was unbelievably light. Lighter than a lot of paperbacks.

To repay Dorothy’s good deed in letting me play with her Kindle, I encourage you to visit her website by clicking here.

And, if you dismissed it before, give that Kindle a second thought. Because there’s one additional advantage Amazon doesn’t seem to be promoting: no one will judge you by the cover of the book you are reading. Trash or treasure, it all looks the same to them.


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October 2009