White Dog Fell From The Sky. Eleanor Morse. Penguin Group (USA). December 2013. 368 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780143124436.
It is sheer irony to be reading this novel four days after the great South African leader, Nelson Mandela, has been laid to rest in his hometown in South Africa. For Eleanor Morse has crafted the story of a white woman, Alice Mendelssohn, and a South African colored man, Isaac Muthethe, who lived through the perilous times in the late 70’s and did so much more than survive. 1976 – It is against the law for a colored person to be outside without a passport; it’s also against the law for them to enter certain stores, use public facilities reserved for white people, or look a white person directly in the eye, let alone to disagree with that person. It practically is against the law to live. Now it has become even more dangerous as the secret members of the ANC resistance movement are carrying out their protests against apartheid with violent acts.
The South African Defense Forces in turn are killing ANC members or those suspected of being involved with the ANC. So Isaac, after seeing his best friend brutally killed, flees South Africa into neighboring Botswana. There a white dog “with the wisdom of ages” falls out of the sky and becomes Isaac’s devoted companion and guide. Isaac’s future as a medical student seems a dead goal since he is now considered an ANC member though he has never participated in any actions and attended only a couple of meetings. Isaac finally finds work as a gardener for Alice and learns to do a beautiful job with the help of an elderly gardener who lives nearby Alice’s home. Isaac’s goal is to save enough money for his sister and brother to go to school and to save his other brother from poverty and living as an outlaw. Much will happen to all in these pages but Isaac is one very dedicated and persevering proud black man.
Alice, on the other hand, is about to undergo tremendous change as she chooses to leave an unfaithful man. She will mistrust many men before she finds one to trust and respect as well as love. They will share a journey in which the unrivaled immensity and unbridled cruelty of the African bush, the latter created by the white colonizers who now believe this ancient land is now their own home. The descriptions of the scenery and animals in this portion of the novel are nothing short of extraordinarily beautiful and lyrical.
Isaac will undergo a phase in his life that is agonizingly painful to read but which the reader realizes must be told as the realistic truth that existed for far too many during that very violent historical period. Alice and her friend will ultimately prove to be saviors to both Isaac and his family but to tell that story here would be to deny the reader an amazing, well-researched, intriguing and phenomenal experience!
Eleanor Morse is a literate, intelligent and gifted writer who has gifted the world with a classic work of vivid historical fiction. Highly, highly recommended!!!!!