I'm not sure how I missed out on this book until now. Perhaps it was because this book would have likely been a bit too "religious" in the public school that I attended. Whatever the reason, I'm glad a copy of it made its way to my bookshelf!
Set in South Africa during the 1940s, Alan Paton's novel is the story of a man's search for Absalom, his lost son who had left home to go to Johannesburg. For a rural priest to make the trek to the big city was quite an undertaking. The experiences Kumalo faced in the big city were frightening for him, and yet he continued his quest for his son. Every time he would get a good lead on his son, he found that Absalom had already moved on. He knew he was getting closer to finding him when he heard news that a young black man had shot and killed a white man. Kumalo worried that it was his son.
While in Johannesburg, Kumalo also found his brother, who had also "disappeared" into the big city. His brother had become a man of power. However, in becoming a man of power, he had lost his moral compass.
Kumalo also found his younger sister and her young son. He took them under his wing as he continued to search for his son. In his quest he found a young woman who was carrying Absalom's child-- Kumalo's grandson. This young woman was hardly older than a girl, and Kumalo, being a righteous man, took her under his wing as well.
Kumalo finds his son in prison-- for the murder of the prominent white man.
After a trial, where Absalom was found guilty and sentenced to death, Kumalo takes those in his care back to his rural village.
Two scenes stand out in my mind. One is a contrast of brother to brother. Kumalo is such a trusting, giving man that his brother's deceitfulness causes him great sorrow.
The other scene that I enjoy replaying in my mind is the scene with Kumalo and the young son of the man Absalom had killed. What joy and what healing this encounter brings to the old man!
This is a story of love and forgiveness.,, of injustice and selfishness... of racism and inequality. It is a story of finding hope in the midst of despair.
If you are looking for a good book that will increase your understanding of the events that occurred in South Africa, take a look at Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. You'll be glad you did.