If You Want to Make God Laugh: A Novel. Bianca Marais. Penguin Publishing Group. July 2019; pb, 448 pp.; ISBN #: 9780735219311.
It’s the late 1900s. Nelson Mandela is about to become the first African President of South Africa, but apartheid is still very much rampant in the minds of white Afrikaan citizens. Splinter rebel groups have fought for freedom for years; now some of those groups are out to wipe out all blacks. In this time of new freedom and old prejudices, three women wind up living together. Zodwa is a young pregnant woman whose failures have given her mother tremendous grief. Her brother was part of the Inkatha Freedom Group and is considered dead but his body, living or dead, has never been found. Now Zodwa will never achieve her dreams of being educated and free.
Two sisters, Ruth and Delilah, are seeking to fashion a life of agreement but past memories in both white women haunt the present. Ruth was a stripper and prostitute who has been married and divorced three times. Delilah was a convert to the Catholic faith and fell in love with a priest who later abuses her. She has a son who becomes a priest and later dies under the dominance of his father. Delilah would do anything to see her son and discover the truth about their separation. Meanwhile Zodwa gives birth but her mother gives away the child. By coincidence, she finds him and agrees to work for his foster parents, Ruth and Delilah. All three live together with their funny bantering, highly sarcastic bickering and a sense of need that brings redemption to all of their lives.
If You Want to Make God Laugh is an uplifting, solid story that is crafted well and includes a huge segment of African history that has not been well-known up to now, the period of reconciliation led by Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the plague of HIV disease that led to an AIDS crisis. Change is a process, not a miraculous moment or miracle. Yet many miracles happen in this tale revealing tremendous violence, sexuality, romance, Church abuse, forgiveness and growth into a new life. You will never forget this amazing story. Bianca Marais is a writer to watch and relish with this novel and hopefully with what will follow! Congratulations on this story of relentless love and transformation!