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The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo: A Novel Hardcover – April 24, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (April 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316735809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316735803
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,927,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Orner's poetic, episodic examination of the varieties of life at an isolated Catholic primary school deep in the veld of Namibia coheres around the title character, a beautiful guerrilla fighter turned kindergarten teacher. Set in the early 1990s, soon after Namibia won independence from South Africa, this impressive debut novel (after Esther Stories) is mostly narrated by Larry Kaplanski, a young volunteer who leaves Cincinnati, Ohio, to teach English and history at Farm Goas. Orner captures Goas's glacial rhythms, the extraordinary contrast between the desert's night and day, and the community's daily privations, including—for the single male teachers—a lust arising from boredom and loneliness. Mavala Shikongo, the principal's sister-in-law and the object of her colleagues' desires, reluctantly settles at Goas with her illegitimate baby boy, Tomo. Orner punctuates Larry's observations with brief interludes told from the points of view of other inhabitants of the school, and with haunting, cinematic imagery—boys do pull-ups on a huge cross; Mavala and Larry, who become friends and intimates, hold their afternoon trysts on the graves of Boer settlers. These telling snapshots stand in for the larger sociopolitical, cultural and religious issues facing a country emerging from a century of colonization. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Talk about stories never told. Larry Kaplanski from Cincinnati is a volunteer teacher in a small, rough all-boys Catholic school in the Namibian desert in 1991, just after independence. He shares a shack with colleagues and is in love with beautiful Mavala Shikongo, who is a kindergarten teacher and veteran guerilla fighter from the antiapartheid "struggle." The weight of the brutal colonial and apartheid past is always there, but the freedom story is never reverential, and the taut vignettes, anguished and sometimes hilarious, are about ordinary people now. The novel is more situation than story, but there are scenes that will stay with you forever: the three illegal refugee children from across the border, who only want school, and then are gone after three days; the drought stories; the fence building (Why? How?); the farce of the Cincinnati community that sends an old broken piano "for the adorable little school somewhere in deepest Africa." Orner, a prizewinning short story writer, has lived in Namibia, and his debut novel brings close those far from the centers of power. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

This book is unfocused and none of the characters are very interesting.
constant reader
In this tantaslisingly hilarious at sometimes excellent debuet novel, we see love and humor both combined into a unique story witha very well written story line.
Sam worrall
Unfortunately, this book was just a bore that I had to fight hard to get through as far as I did.
Paul S

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dagmar F. Pelzer on May 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to skim this book. I couldn't stop reading. Finished the whole book before even trying to put it down.

What a great read. Staccato. Short chapters, short sentences, half sentences. An English teacher's nightmare!! Staccato, like in music. Great.

Presented Namibia exactly like I have always imagined it. Dry, desolate, capturing. The people, the same. This woman, Mavala. Just as staccato as the book itself.

Read it, you will love it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. K. Marcoe on May 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It was no surprise to find the author is a poet. This book contains many stunning turns of phrases. There were sentences I re-read first in disbelief then with gradual understanding and finally with a great joy of true edifying comprehension.

That he can be so articulate of landscape, eloquent on character and damn funny at the same time is a wonder.

Half way through this book I realized, with great relief, that I was reading a truly unique writer with a voice so strong and idiosyncratic that that burdensome word 'art' started popping into my head. As the final pages unfurled it was obvious that THE SECOND COMING OF MAVALA SHIKONGO is indeed worthy of such classification. Bravo to Mr. Orner.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By kmilerun on March 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book based solely on the setting of Namibia. I was simply looking to read some contemporary African fiction.

I loved the book. Cleverly written. Orner did a terrific job capturing the sense of place. I could feel the heat and dust as I read. He was able to tell a great tale, very well researched, with good humour. While touching throghout, I found myself laughing at many scenes.

Nice job! Go get it and enjoy it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Pen on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
How fascinating to read a new novel, set in far-away Namibia with a cast of characters that are about as unfamiliar to westerners as is the small village school that they inhabit. They are indeed a world apart from your traditional boys school faculty. Eccentric, opionated, but strangely sophisticated, though their days are spent away from 'civilization.' They do get their news, albeit a few days old. Does it matter? One doesn't instantly fall in step with their lifestyle. There is even a slight resistance to it, but Orner has sensed this natural anxiety on the part of his readers. His protagonist, an American from Ohio, is a remarkably forbearing creature. He's in a milieu that would baffle anyone, but Orner brings him and it alive. He does help us along with bits of Namibian history and folklore - its colonialism under the Germans and British; its heroes; and the strange victims of war and poverty that stray into the school compound. Nevertheless, the book could have been a withering critique. The dreadful drought and heat strain resources; yet, as at the school, the daily routine is still maintained. And Orner makes us realize how normal the bizarre is with precise vignettes of everyone and everything. Living in the veld in Namibia may not be your cup of tea, but one feels fortunate to have this inside view. And, more importantly, it is to Orner's great credit that we finish reading the book and immediately want to return to it for a closer, more leisurely look. His storytelling is beguiling.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on April 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"She's back."

In The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, author Peter Orner takes us to Namibia in the early 1990s, just after the country has won independence. He paints an oppressive landscape of isolation at an all-boys' Catholic boarding school where "the sand, trees, bushes, even the cows, were all the color of plaster." Though surrounded by desert, poverty and relentless sun, the people of Goas weave a vivid tapestry of life through their stories, songs and relationships.

This story is told by Larry Kaplanski, a volunteer from Cincinnati, Ohio, who's not sure why he's really come all this way to teach history and English in the middle of nowhere and among this band of misfits and characters. It's not until Mavala Shikongo enters his world with her little mustard-colored suitcase, sitting upon the only green patch of grass--called Ireland--that the days takes on new life and richness.

Mavala, the only single woman teacher to bless the boarding school "so far in the veld even the baboons feel sorry for us," is modern, restless and driven. She's a combat veteran who fought Namibia's long war for independence against South Africa. Her high energy and even higher-heeled stilettos are juxtaposed against the long languid days and people of a dry and dusty desert. She comes; she leaves and then comes back again--this time with a child, but no husband. Mavala remains an enigma throughout and all the men of the school are mesmerized by her mystery and are just a little in love with her.

This novel explores the thoughts and history of Goas through the stories of its people. It's full of spirit, tenderness and passion as we learn about values, love and the endurance of fellowship.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Kirsch on March 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo as I loved Orner's first book, Esther Stories. This novel did not disappoint. It's a love story, but set in the remote veld of Namibia, it is also offers astute political commentary and a glimpse at history that few Americans will learn about in school. Orner's prose is elegant and funny, his descriptions of conflict and boredom, landscapes both internal and external, beauty in the everyday, are luminous.
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