Read a Good Book: Cry, The Beloved Country


Cry, The Beloved CountrySince I am now riding the bus to work, I have about 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the evening for reading. It’s amazing how much more I get read — more than in the past when I would climb in bed, plump up my pillow, snuggle the covers to my shoulders, and read before I fell asleep. For about 3 minutes (on a good night!).

I have read about 2.5 books in the last 2 weeks. At this rate, I might finish reading all of the books on my ‘to read list’ in about a year and a half instead of a life time and a half.

One of the books I finished was Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton. I highly recommend this book!

Now, when you first pick this book up and start reading it, don’t be deceived by the apparently simpleness of the writing. Its strength lies in the simplicity. There is power in its simplicity. It is profound!

At times, I wiped away a tear from my eye. One mustn’t be caught crying over a book on the bus. One must appear collected, put together, dignified while riding public transportation. I learned to blink rapidly and swallow quickly to squelch any sign of outward emotion.

Set in apartheid South Africa , the main character, an old black rural priest, searches for his son in the big city of Johannesburg. He finally locates his son but . . . . but I don’t want to tell you much more because I would give the plot away.

( What?! you exclaim. You are worried about giving the plot away? You? Who ALWAYS reads the last few pages of the book before you start at the beginning? You who knows the end before the beginning?)

Yes, dear reader, even though I read the last of the book before the beginning, I don’t want to ruin anything for those who proceed naturally through a book from beginning to end. Can you trust me that it is worth it to read this book without giving you much info about the plot?

I will say this about the book. Stephen Kumalo is a Zulu priest. His sister has turned into a prostitute. His brother is a labor protestor. His son has been arrested for the murder of a white man. His family is on the brink of destruction as racial tension rage throughout Johannesburg.

Pain, suffering, redemption, forgiveness, love. It’s all there in the book. Especially the forgiveness.

This is a moving story about segregation and its affect on the people in South Africa. Its about how one white young man — and ultimately his father — learns to go outside the expected apartheid norms to reach out to improve the situation of the Blacks.

I read a review by a young girl who read the book for school. She said it was an OK book. (I bet no tears surfaced on her tear ducts . . .) She thought that there should be ‘more’ to the story. I think in her naivety and youth she totally missed the point of the book. She hasn’t had a child so she cannot understand the pain a parent feels because of his children’s actions. She probably hasn’t seen too much suffereing. She probably has never done anything seriously bad in her life that needs to be rectified or redeemed.

So, if by any chance that you read it, please pay attention to what the white father does. Ponder it. Considering that this book was printed in 1948, his actions are pretty amazing.