Winner of the John Gardner Fiction Book Award for “the most outstanding book of fiction published in 2001 by a small or university press.”
Danny Divan is a white teenager in South Africa under apartheid when he falls in love with the daughter of a black domestic servant. His family forces the two apart, and eventually his discomfort with the poisonous political atmosphere drives him from the country and to a new life in America.
Within weeks of his arrival in Boston, Danny meets Tesseba, an offbeat but trusting artist who takes him in and marries him so he won't be deported. Even as they live as a couple and build a life together, and as Danny prospers and his family joins him in exile, the memory of his forbidden first love does not fade. Twenty years later, when Danny returns to the "new" South Africa to salvage what he can of his family's fortune, he sets out to discover what became of the girl he cannot forget. What he finds instead is the truest version of himself.
Unexpected, even unforgettable… [an] artful battle against cultural and historical amnesia.
Thoughtful, affecting and skillfully constructed … Schmahmann's portrayal of South Africa, past and present, is as poignant - and nuanced - as his delineation of the characters and their relationships.
A marvelous and painful psalm on love of both people and places.
Through inflection and carefully observed physical gestures he performs little miracles of characterization…. Schmahmann's account captures beautifully the truth and tenderness of the kind of love that can happen between two people only when they are very young.
A finely crafted, deeply satisfying debut novel…, brilliantly conceived.
It bristles with tension and suspense and is remarkably authentic. You can smell the sea and the decay, and almost touch the people, who are so real.
Teaches us volumes about hello and goodbye, holding on and letting go.
All of Schmahmann’s characters … long for a past that can no longer exist – a longing he elucidates with bittersweet grace
[An] artful, moving novel …displaying a sure touch with character, plot and atmosphere alike.
A powerful, engrossing story about a time and place that many would rather forget…the author is masterful at manipulating the various voices. He creates the personalities and circumstances of each character through their speech patterns…and expressions of guilt and grief, bigotry and ambiguity, fury and tenderness.
A Striking first novel…. Schmahmann brings characters, family tensions and racial complexities rambunctiously alive in just a line or two.
An engaging and poignant account of forbidden love …. An altogether promising debut.