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Karoo Boy: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Troy Blacklaws
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Troy Blacklaws’s acclaimed debut novel is the remarkable story of a boy coming of age in the wake of tragedy

When his twin brother dies in a freak accident, Douglas’s life begins to unravel. His mother leaves his father, taking Douglas with her to live in the Karoo region, a harsh desert landscape that is a far cry from Cape Town and the seaside life Douglas has always known. In this small village that is wary of outsiders, he makes two friends who change his life forever: a beautiful girl named Marika and an old man named Moses. Immersed in rich language and vivid detail, and set against the backdrop of 1970s South Africa, Karoo Boy is the story of a young man finding his way in the midst of chaos and loss.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Death divides a Cape Town family in Blacklaws's evocative but frustrating debut. The story, set in 1976 but narrated in a terse, foreboding and sometimes baffling present tense, begins with 14-year old Douglas Thomas's father accidentally killing his other son, Marsden (Douglas's twin), with an errant cricket pitch. Family disintegration follows: Douglas's father announces that he is "going away," and his mother decides that they're moving to Karoo—a "foreign, far, flat and bleak" place. In Karoo, Douglas befriends Moses, an old black man who works at the gas station and who cannot leave the area because his papers have been stolen. Between italicized flashbacks to Marsden and Sundays with Moses retooling a broken-down Volvo (they both dream of driving back to the ocean), Douglas falls for a girl named Marika. The novel zigzags between vivid descriptive passages and sudden bursts of violence that recall the social and political nightmare that was 1970s South Africa. The historical realities feel out of focus, however, and the characters' motives are often unclear. Though this is a coming-of-age tale, readers will be startled to learn that Douglas, when he finally returns to the seaside alone, is 18; this, along with the other narrative hinges in the story, feels sloppily handled for the sake of a rather ersatz lyrical style. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Readers familiar with South African idiom will feel right at home in this first-person, present-tense story of a white boy's coming-of-age at the height of apartheid in the 1970s. But even those who don't know the meaning of kaffirboetie, tackies, and hambawill recognize the aching personal truth and political horror. When Dad kills Douglas' twin in a freak accident with a cricket-ball on the beautiful Cape Town beach, Dad disappears, and Mom takes Douglas and her maid, Hope, into "exile" in a tiny town in Karoo, where the landscape is largely dust and thorn. Douglas finds love with a classmate and a father in Moses, a Xhosa ex-miner, also in exile without an official pass. The newspaper headlines are about the distant Soweto riots, but the vicious racism is part of daily life even in the hinterland. The story is in the details in this first novel: the exquisite sense of place, the tender intimacy, and the casual cruelty, from murder to being forced to use separate utensils. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 282 KB
  • Print Length: 212 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0156030659
  • Publisher: Open Road Media; 1 edition (March 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BPJOD12
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,348 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even Angels... August 18, 2005
Karoo Boy is an ambitious novel, in the sense that it tackles the really big themes that even angels (and definitely first-time novelists) approach with cautious tread: living in apartheid South Africa, growing up to consciousness, love and the loss of it, guilt and death. And yet Troy Blacklaws manages to tame these wild things, and bring them to rest in a compact novel, with a handful of well-drawn characters, surrounded by the vast impersonal canvas of the Karoo.

He is sensitive to the minutiae that make up a life, and he describes these in spare prose that paradoxically becomes lyrical in the repetition of the rhymes: "I paddle out through the ice-tea surf. The rising sun glints in the empty windows of the weekend train to Cape Town. I stand on a borrowed board. No flicks or tricks. The wave barrels. For a moment, I glide. Then the wave tumbles me. I fight it instead of going with it. Have I forgotten everything? I even forgot to dogleash the board to my foot. As I surface I hear the crack of the board on the rock. I wade up out of the water, feeling ashamed."

Karoo Boy is not only a welcome addition to the body of fiction now written by thirty-something South Africans, relating their experiences as teenagers during the unholy hey-day of apartheid. It is also a bloody good story, and it is well told.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic January 2, 2006
This beautifully-written book is full of rich characters and convincing settings, but what makes this book special is the story. The protagonist of this coming-of-age tale (set in the South Africa of 1976) must wrestle with deep and painful problems under adverse circumstances. The ending is a stunner. I reread it within weeks of first reading it. Best book I've read in a long time.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Youth Lost August 16, 2005
Karoo Boy is a book about growing up - a Bildungsroman that recalls Salinger's Catcher in the Rye with its sinewy language and the imaginative force of its images. Douglas's twin brother is killed in a freak accident in a beach cricket game, a striking image of the shattered social fabric and the brooding violence that lurked beneath the surface in the South Africa of the seventies. His father hops it. Douglas is banished with his mother, their servant Hope and the dog Chaka to the boondocks, far from Cape Town, on the edge of a South African nowhere. The book relates how he slowly comes to terms with his exile and the double loss of his father and his twin brother. Karoo Boy seems almost to glow in the harsh light of the South African veld as the author unwinds the vivid images of a world at the edges of civilisation. The tempo of each chapter is measured, and moves from chord to chord with the precision of a twelve-bar blues. The music of the seventies plays in the background of the book: Neil Young, the Doors, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan. And the writers who form the canon of good literature in white, private schools make up Douglas' education - Paton, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Golding. The world of the growing boy - from the menacing biology lessons, to the pain of a cane on his hand, the sun on his skin, the smells and sounds of the desert, a boy's growing awareness of his own sexuality and his effect on others - are deftly drawn into a complex picture of growing up in this alien environment. Karoo Boy is full of tactile images that light up the prose like a match flare in the dark of night. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Colorful Book for Sure! August 5, 2008
I read Karoo Boy with an eye for selecting a novel about other cultures for high school students to read. I devoured the book in one day and was completely swept up in the colorful, descriptive writing and word choices. Now, not being South African myself, I found that I was perplexed by the meaning of many of the words/phrases, but I was usually able to ascertain the meaning from the context of the paragraphs. And I enjoyed rolling the unfamiliar words around on my tongue and guessing at their meaning.

Unfortunately, because I love this book and think many students would feel the same, I don't think I will recommend that this book be placed on the list of "recommended books" for the assignment because of the sexual situations/comments. But I will recommend this book to students who are looking for a good coming-of-age novel, in the same vein of The Catcher in the Rye or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, that aren't using it for a required assignment.

This book has been my favorite summer read and I bet that you will think it is uniquely good, too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars dope May 7, 2006
Once you start reading, you cannot put this book down. This book is truly a way for people to visit Africa spiritually and experience another culture. Blacklaws' rich and detailed imagery takes readers on a journey of their own; this is probably why Chris Martin the singer of Coldplay said the book was so colourful. To truly enjoy the adventure u must read it with an open mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book October 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is so elegantly written! A young boy from an urban setting must move to a very rural environment after his father accidentally kills the boy's twin brother. The insight into the coping mechanism of this child as he grows up is touching. The prose made me stop and reread parts just because the words so carefully selected and tied together.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A change of scenery
I have been reading fiction and nonfiction titles every February for BHM that feature racism in the U.S. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Ms. M.
1.0 out of 5 stars started reading, didn't finish
This book is very awkward and slow. I have tried to read it multiple times, but have yet been unable to finish. . . I will keep trying though!!
Published 20 months ago by Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Calling for more reviews! & Comments
Meant to get this. Yes, I'll acknowledge, up front, that I have not (yet) read this. (So, I'd normally add a comment, rather than a review. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Being Practical
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotion beyond words
This book is simply written, yet the words drill into your emotions relentlessly. I am truly at awe and heartbroken for the characters in this book. Read more
Published on May 13, 2013 by Simon Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it so I would read it again!
This book is very well written, he has a great style. He paints a picture of africa and the events that are so beautiful and clear. Sadily he hasnt written more.
Published on September 22, 2009 by D. Bryant
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful language...
the african setting is poignant, evocative, romantic -- but the author's vocabulary and use of language raises this book to high levels of literary enjoyment... Read more
Published on January 8, 2006 by foxburr
4.0 out of 5 stars "The air floats unanchored in space."
"My mother's cry is a sky full of gaping-beaked seagulls." On the Cape in South Africa in 1976, Dee's twin brother is killed in an accident, struck in the head by a ball while... Read more
Published on September 4, 2005 by Luan Gaines
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More About the Author

I was born in 1965 in Natal, South Africa. I was uprooted at 9 when my father landed a job on a wine farm in the Cape. At 14 I discovered South Africa was a world pariah and that black men were shot in their call for freedom. Baited as a kaffirboetie (a niggerlover), I became an outsider at Paarl Boys' High. I studied at Rhodes University and then I was drafted into the army. I would not carry a gun to defend the apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela was in jail during all this time.

My novels so far (novels: Karoo Boy 2004 and Blood Orange 2005) draw on memories of my boyhood in apartheid South Africa. Bafana Bafana: a story of soccer, magic and Mandela (a fable for young folk) is a bid to draw the eye to the hazardous fate of street boys in Cape Town and to teach young folk around the world something about Mandela.

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