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For the next five weeks, I’ll be running a series called “Thumbs Up Tuesdays” where I’ll share some of my favorite reads. Tracy over at The HeSo Project suggested the idea of a series, and I thought it was a great way to explore all kinds of word-related possibilities.

Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic book by Alan Paton

First off is one of my all-time favorites, Cry, the Beloved Country by South African writer Alan Paton. At its core, it asks two fundamental questions:

1. Why does injustice happen?

2. How does the acquisition of power – or lack of it – shape your character?

Briefly, the story revolves around the Reverend Stephen Kumalo, who receives a letter summoning him to Johannesburg, South Africa, to help his sister, Gertrude. Kumalo travels there, also hoping to find his son, Absalom, who traveled there and never returned.

Kumalo meets up with his letter-writing fellow priest, Msimangu, and the two visit John Kumalo, Stephen’s brother, who sends them to the factory where Absalom once worked. As the story unfolds, Kumalo sees the wide economic and social gaps between the races, something he didn’t experience in his small village.

Meanwhile, Arthur Jarvis, a proponent of racial justice, has been murdered, and the police suspect Absalom Kumalo.

I’ll stop here for obvious reasons.

The first time I finished Cry, the Beloved Country, I actually sat for a few minutes because I needed to appreciate fully the character of Stephen Kumalo. Throughout all this tension and personal tragedy, he wavered but never faltered. And his character wasn’t impossible, one of those people you secretly resent because you couldn’t breathe in the moral heights where they reside. Rather, Kumalo was flawed – seeking, hoping, grieving, and not finding – but still he pressed forward amid so many unanswered questions:

Why did Absalom turn to crime when he was raised otherwise? How would Kumalo handle the news that Absalom was jailed for the murder of a white man?

And finally, how did Kumalo react when his son was sentenced, not to life imprisonment, but to something far worse?

That’s why I like this book so much. If you really can’t wait, read the entire synopsis here or rent the movie. Otherwise, I’ll leave you with a quote from the book’s author, Alan Paton. Please share your favorite books below, too – I’m always looking for new titles, and I’d love to promote your favorite book on a “Thumbs Up Tuesday”!

Alan Paton