The Peculiars by Jennifer Thorpe (first published in 2016 by Penguin Random House South Africa)

Metathesiophobia: fear of changes

A wanna-be pastry chef, a fearful computer expert, an arachnophobe and a grumpy old racist. As a part a study at The Centre for Improved Living, this motley crew gather to try to overcome their mental obstacles.

Nazma is scared of driving, so much so that her putative baking career has been hampered and she spends her days in the tiny confines of her family’s train-station kiosk. For Sam, an incident in which his mother was attacked has led to fear that keeps him imprisoned in his own home. Is a four week programme enough to break them out of these negative patterns? And might they just find a romantic connection along the way?

Well-known South African researcher and writer Jennifer Thorpe uses this premise for her quirky, enjoyable fiction debut. Every page reveals a tangible love of Cape Town’s eccentricities, the streets, pavements and trains and the people who live on and around them.

She quickly makes you care about this little temporary community, and the future of the centre that in its small way can make their world a better place.

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