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  Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Review by: Michaela B.
Alberta, Grade 10

In a stunning book about the challenges of redemption, relationships, and race during apartheid in South Africa, Alan Paton paints a vivid picture of a world in which hardship is as frequent in the individual lives of those who live in this country, as it is in the country and government itself. Cry, the Beloved Country, was written to show the issues that the everyday men and women who lived during this time faced, and to give the perspective of both the black and white people.

This book opens with a description of the South African countryside, portraying it as beautiful and peaceful, though Paton soon reveals that all is not as it seems. Those living here face a serious drought, the land is overworked and many of the men and women have left their families' traditional farming land to make their own way in the city, Johannesburg. The story then follows a pastor named Stephen Kumalo, who is going to the city to find his son and sister who left and went there a few years back.

Kumalo is the character who makes this book interesting; his insights into the greater plans for people in South Africa, and his strength throughout his journey give the appearance of a man who knows greater things. Though the trip is difficult, he learns much and is opened up to a new world of possibilities and difficulties. As he makes his way to the city, discovers his sister's livelihood, searches for his son, and reunites with his brother, Kumalo finds that the world is not as he had seen it before; through the help of his friend Msimangu, he also finds that there is great strength in the people of South Africa, and also within himself.

Paton has a unique writing style which grabs the reader; while using descriptive language and imagery he creates a novel which with every chapter, pulls you further into the story. His ability to let you feel what the characters are feeling, and understand their thoughts, brings a unique sense throughout the book that allows you to sympathize with each of the characters.

The theme of this book is one of gradual understanding for another race, and even other members of one's own family. Kumalo must learn to reconcile with his son, sister, and even God, as he travels through a place where the rules and traditions that apply to him do not seem to be relevant to anyone else. When Kumalo finally meets James Jarvis, the father of the man whom his son had murdered, they both reach a deeper understanding of each other and of the other's problems in their lives.

Throughout time, countries again and again face division within themselves, which finally comes down to one man against another. Cry, the Beloved Country, shows how two such men can understand each other, even through the tragedy that strikes both their lives, and find peace in their circumstances. I recommend this novel, as it was beautifully written and gives a clear picture of how people must learn to understand those whose lives are intertwined with their own.

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