Rachel’s Blue by Zakes Mda (published by Kwela)
Award-winning author Zakes Mda has proven himself unusually insightful into human nature, with a special knack for giving life to marginalised characters, with warmth and empathy.

His love and knowledge of the reality of South Africa and its people has often been at the centre of his novels and plays.

This latest novel taps into the same sense of shared humanity, this time against the setting of small-town America (where the author now lives), where all the elements of a close-knit community come into play.

Written with Mda’s usual mastery of character and narrative, the story revolves around Rachel and a violent rape that sets neighbours and friends against each other, and even creates tension in Rachel’s own family.

Drawing on actual legislation that is in place in some American states, Mda weaves in the thorny issue of visitation and custody rights for rapists when a child is conceived during the crime.

Mda’s characters are rich and real. There are no absolute heroes or villains in this story. Even the rapist is shown to have some redeeming character traits.

This is no faceless monster leaping out of the darkness, which makes it all the more difficult for Rachel to convince the community that it would be totally wrong and unacceptable to her for him to have access to their child, Blue – or even worse, custody.

The way the story twists and turns makes this a thought-provoking page-turner that will have you looking for friends who’ve read it, just so that you can talk the issues through with them.

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