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White Dog Fell from the Sky: A Novel Hardcover – January 3, 2013
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“Magic, friendship, the tragedy of apartheid and the triumph of loyalty are recounted in poetic, powerful prose by this unconventional and intelligent writer. Shattering and uplifting.”—Kuki Gallmann, author of I Dreamed of Africa
“Eleanor Morse captures the magic of the African landscape and the terror and degradation of life under apartheid…[She] channels her fascination with the factious regions into her courageous characters, whose story roars along and arrives, finally, at hope.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
"There are not enough adjectives to describe the strength of this story. Eleanor Morse has written a character driven novel with character. White Dog Fell From the Sky has a life of its own that blends reality, insight, observation, and nuance with such ease and grace you forget you are reading...A powerful story of love—love of a person, a people, a land and living with purpose...Emotionally riveting, heartbreaking, and at times unbearable, while simultaneously embracing hope, insight, and a sense of perpetual mystery. Each sentence is more beuatiful than the last."—Gabriel Constans, New York Journal of Books
“Big issues of ecology, politics, borders, race relations, art, and history.”—Hazel Rochman, Booklist
"Morse brings the natural world of Botswana to vivid life."—Kirkus Reviews
“Brutal and beautiful…it explores the strength and friendship, the bonds of love, and the inhumanity regimes are capable of inflicting upon individuals…Morse’s unflinching portrayals of extremes of loyalty and cruelty make for an especially memorable novel.”—Publishers Weekly
“Morse’s descriptions of the vast landscapes of Botswana are specific and ravishing.”—BookPage
“Lyrical and quite beautiful, with searing descriptions of the dusty earth, unforgiving sun, and stark skies.”—Entertainment Weekly
“The infinite, healing power of love is put to the test…Morse writes heartbreakingly of isolation, loss, and the soul-deadening effect of torture. Her mesmerizing descriptions of Africa will leave readers wondering how a continent of such beauty can harbor so much evil…This is for readers unafraid to plumb the depths of human emotions.”—Library Journal
“Breathtaking beauty, next to danger and hardships and make-do living…Witness it in all its terrible randomness.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Eleanor Morse writes with sympathy and precision, sensitive to the dislocations of race and class – the grave imbalance of power…The book unfolds into stories both tragic and transcendent.”—Boston.com
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Top Customer Reviews
The first character we meet is Isaac Muthethe, a young medical student who was forced to flee South Africa for Botswana after witnessing his friend's death by the white South African Defense Force. Upon arriving there, he is quickly "adopted" by a skinny white dog. Fate brings him - and the dog -- to the home of Alice Mendelssohn, who works for the Botswana government and whose marriage is quickly disintegrating. Despite his lack of experience, he assumes the role of her gardener.
The characters, who fall into an unlikely friendship, are superbly drawn: Isaac, a serious man who never relinquishes his dignity and Alice, who falls deeply in love with a hard-to-tame man named Ian who opens the door to emotions she felt she no longer possessed. When Alice returns from an intense weekend with Ian, she finds that Isaac is missing...and the story develops into unchartered territory.
The theme, again and again, circles back to our place in the universe and how little we know. "We are doorways, openings into something greater than ourselves, something that we don't understand and will never understand. We have nothing precious in and of ourselves. We are only precious in that we are part of something that is too big to know," Isaac reflects, early on.
And Ian, Alice's soul-mate, later reflects on the same thing when he views paintings from the !KungSan: "Whether you believe in God or not, the artists understood that they weren't at the center of the universe, that humans are a small part, surrounded by the power and beauty of the whole.Read more ›
Isaac Muthethe, a young South African medical student, escapes into neighboring Botswana hidden in a hearse. The first creature he meets is a stray white dog, who attaches herself to him. He also encounters a former school friend, Amen, who has moved to Botswana to organize cross-border guerilla actions for the ANC. Although Isaac wants no part in Amen's activities, he is grateful for his offer of a place to stay (a mistake, as it turns out). Isaac eventually finds work as a gardener for Alice Mendelssohn, an American working for the government. Although neither knows much about gardening, Isaac puts his heart and soul into it, and soon he and Alice have struck up a close relationship of mutual respect. Then calamity strikes.
It is at this point, about a third of the way through the book, that the story, in my opinion, loses steam. It suddenly becomes more about Alice than Isaac, and although the author (an American who spent some years in Botswana herself) presumably calls upon personal knowledge to portray her, she is the less interesting of the two characters. We sympathize at the break-up of her marriage, though her experience is by no means unusual. We see her mixture and joy and apprehension at finding, as she thinks, someone whom she can love for life, but I could not entirely buy into this. The shift of focus does not stop there.Read more ›
Isaac has fled South Africa to escape his probable capture and death by the South African Defense Force. He had allied himself with student activists, one of whom he had been forced to watch die under the wheels of a train. Yet he had also watched the beating and the death by fire of a man suspected of harboring allegiance with the defense force. In the end he has chosen life, but his path continues to be twisted by the forces of history. He is a thoughtful man who has come to be adopted by White Dog, an empathetic creature in his own right. (Too white to have come from Earth, and by inference too good.)
In Botswana he becomes close to a white woman, Alice, who is facing her own dilemma on living a moral life in the reality of Africa 1977. Her travels become a second narrative. I feel her character is empathetic but imperfect, like all of us. In trying to do justice to Isaac she puzzles him. In trying to do justice to the !Kung San in their struggles to survive while fences kill their prey, she is caught by the contradictory forces at play in Africa.
To me Morse teaches us that "each person carries with them their own pouch. That person brings it wherever they go, carried in their hand. Your pouch never empties, only fills and fills. What's on the bottom remains on the bottom and is covered over in time." The lyricism of this statement is representative of the small gems throughout the book. They are not necessarily new, but stated in a way that enabled me to smile to myself and say, "Yes, that is how it is." As the white dog witnesses, so may we.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely wonderful book. It is well written. The story is well constructed and the characters are quite real. Anyone that is interested in South Africa should read this book.Published 21 days ago by Susan Louis
I was first introduced to Botswana by the First Ladies' Detective novels (which sadly have gone downhill in the past few years) and the Detective Kubu novels by Michael Stanley... Read morePublished 1 month ago by ahammerquilts
Eleanor Morse is a masterful writer. This book is set in South Africa during Apartheid, so it deals with some hefty topics. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Myrtle
I loved this story and the characters so well described. I was emotionally moved throughout the book until the very end.Published 2 months ago by Ann
Stunning, and so beautifully written, you can't look away, even when you want to.Published 3 months ago by CB
I was never fully engaged with the characters in this novel, it seemed to read almost like a newspaper story, with a recitation of who did what and when they did it. Read morePublished 6 months ago by woodstock_ap
Touching and interesting, this is a good glimpse into real life in South Africa. Beautifully written by Elenor Morse, it is a story of love, longing and heartbreak in a fascinating... Read morePublished 7 months ago by good reader
Excellent read to make me appreciate the life I enjoy in Western U.S. Wanted to protest his treatment and fear of repercussion.Published 7 months ago by mary mozes