16. December 2008 · Comments Off on Other Lives by Andre Brink · Categories: Book Reviews, Goldfish Award Books, South African Literature · Tags: ,

Take an accomplished South African writer nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature three times, add a surprising Hitchcock-like plot with a message and stir.  What comes out will be a book you will never, ever forget.  Andre Brink’s Other Lives is one of the most creative novels I’ve read in a long time.  

Three separate stories merge, crisscross, and get you tangled as they weave through the pages.  Imagine a white South African man who, upon entering his studio, suddenly discovers it’s been transformed into a house.  In it are a black woman who calls him her husband and two little children thrilled to see their daddy.  He’s never seen these people before in his life. Or a white man who wakes up, looks in the mirror, and finds he’s no longer white.  Or a famous pianist who is in love with a singer who won’t allow him to get close to her.  Even after tragedy strikes.  You’ll be hanging onto the edge of your seat throughout the novel, pondering, rethinking what you thought you knew about bigotry and racism, no matter what your color.  

Other Lives is a fantastic novel on so many levels.  Don’t let your book club miss this one – it’s ripe with discussion material.  Once you read it, it will be kept on your “favorites” shelf waiting for the time you’ll pick it up and read it again – and you will.  This is a book that would make excellent study material for psychology, sociology, and South African culture courses.  The message refuses to get lost in the story line as Brink has a way of putting you in the characters’ heads. What would you do if you discovered you aren’t at all who you thought you were?  Want to find out?  Read Other Lives.  You won’t be able to end the book without discovering the answer to that question.

No surprises here – this book gets the carp(e) libris reviews Goldfish Award.  Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.

When a photographer stumbles upon a Kentucky mountaintop homestead and upsetting one of the residents, everything for this small community begins to change and shift.  Chain reactions are set into place, and the results in Ziesk’s latest novel The Trespasser will draw you into a world where you will definitely change your mind over and over again about who the trespasser really is.  Living in the Appalachians is its own unique challenge, and not for everyone.  Sometimes it’s for hermits who never want to leave, other times it becomes a prison to those who don’t want to stay.  Whichever one you turn out to be, The Trespasser is a book you’ll stay with to the end.

I loved Ziesk’s style of writing; very visual, beautiful writing with just the right amount of darkness about it.  The characters are well-constructed and believable, the scenery plays like a movie in your mind, and the plot took turns I never expected.  When you read a lot of books, this is a nice surprise indeed!  Overall, her style offers something I always look for in a book: an air of mystery with characters I keep thinking back to long after the book is closed.  The Trespasser just has to receive the Goldfish Award, and I happily give it.

Edra Ziesk has written two other novels: Acceptable Losses: A Novel and A Cold Spring.  Will I be looking for them?  Most definitely.