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"There is plenty of work for love to do."
on April 26, 2009
In Alexander McCall Smith's "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built," the proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Precious Ramotswe, is in mourning over her decades old tiny white van. The beloved vehicle is making terrible noises and is probably headed for the junk heap. The idea of parting from the van that has been an important part of her life for so long is breaking Mma Ramotswe's heart. Meanwhile, the prickly and outspoken Grace Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe's assistant, has troubles of her own. Her arch enemy, the glamorous and scheming Violet Sephotho, has landed a sales job in the Double Comfort Furniture Shop, whose owner is Phuti Radiphuti, Grace's fiancé. It is obvious to the furious Mma Makutsi that Violet is determined to steal Phuti away from her. In addition, Precious and Grace are hired by Mr. Leungo Molofololo, the owner of a losing football team, to find out why his formerly successful Kalahari Swoopers are suddenly doing so badly.
McCall Smith again delivers a gentle, heartfelt, and humorous look at life in the African country of Botswana. Precious is a thoughtful, unhurried, and compassionate person, who cares deeply for her husband, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, the proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, and their two foster children, the wheelchair-bound Motholeli and her younger brother, Puso. Mma Ramotswe refuses to apologize for her "traditional build," and she has contempt for "these very thin model ladies" who will someday "be blown away by the wind." Day by day, Precious deals with the ups and downs of life by drinking cup after cup of refreshing red bush tea and applying an ample dose of common sense to every problem that arises.
Writing simple and eloquent prose without being maudlin is no mean feat, but Alexander McCall Smith makes it look easy. In addition, he captivates us with amusing dialogue and outlandish situations that are often laugh-out loud funny. The author has a unique gift of drawing the reader into the special world that he has created, a world that is inhabited by ordinary people to whom we can all relate. They struggle with money problems, jealously, anxiety, and frustration, just like the rest of us. Presiding over this universe is the formidable Precious Ramotswe, a woman who appreciates the beauty and tranquility of her country and clings to its old-fashioned values. She always gives full attention to those who need to pour out their hearts, and she tenaciously adheres to the principles that her father taught her. Mma Ramotswe treats everyone with respect, kindness, and sensitivity, believing that "until you hear the whole story, until you dig deeper, and listen, you know only a tiny part of the goodness of the human heart."