Thursday, May 7, 2015

History Corner / Book Review: Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry

Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this ebook, free of charge, from Atria Books, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it

                                     This new novel takes us to South Africa and life post- Apartheid

In this extraordinary debut novel reminiscent of The Lovely Bones and Little Bee, a mother watches from the afterlife as her teenage daughter recovers amidst the startling dysfunction of her extended family.

A small, bright thread of a story weaves out from the moment of my passing and seems to tether me to this place. Perhaps this is why I have not left yet. Perhaps I have no choice but to follow the story to its end.

Black Dog Summer begins with a murder, a farmstead massacre, in the South African bush. Thirty-eight-year-old Sally is but one of the victims. Her life brutally cut short, she narrates from her vantage point in the afterlife and watches as her sister, Adele, her brother-in-law and unrequited love Liam, her niece Bryony, and her teenage daughter, Gigi, begin to make sense of the tragedy.

A suspenseful drama focusing on marriage and fidelity, sisterhood, and the fractious bond between mothers and daughters, Black Dog Summer asks: In the wake of tragedy, where does all that dark energy linger? The youngest characters, Bryony and Gigi, cousins who are now brought together after Sally's murder, are forced into sharing a bedroom. Bryony becomes confused and frightened by the violent energy stirred up and awakened by the massacre, while Gigi is unable to see beyond her deep grief and guilt. But they are not the only ones aware of the lurking darkness. Next door lives Lesedi, a reluctant witchdoctor who hides her mystical connection with the dead behind the facade of their affluent Johannesburg suburb. 

As Gigi finally begins to emerge from her grief, the fragile healing process is derailed when she receives some shattering news, and in a mistaken effort to protect her cousin, puts Bryony's life in imminent danger. Now Sally must find a way to prevent her daughter from making a mistake that could destroy the lives of all who are left behind.

Gorgeously written, with a pace that will leave readers breathless, Black Dog Summer introduces a brilliant new voice in fiction


This is NOT a book to be rushed, but to be savored in doses, as its powerful prose and descriptions set up scene after scene of a disfuctional family coping with a great horror and secrets that are coming unraveled as fast as the thread that Sally searches for to take her to the afterlife flees from her. The book is set after South Africa's integration and sheds light on killings that occurred and disrupted families from the only land they had known. The author pull sno punches in laying out the differences from the affluent city life to the farm where the racial divide would ultimately claim victims, who only sought to help. 

It is also a tale of secrets and how those secrets can dwell and grow, like a large black dog, and overtake us with fears of the unknown, and how once the secrets see the light of day they loose their power over our emotions. You will find yourself knowing the family is about to unravel and sorting through potential dramas, as potential hints to them are laid out, and then changing to a different one, as the author shares more and more about the coping mechanisms of everyone.Ultimately the end is not what the reader foresees, but it is a perfect ending for a story of misdirection and misunderstandings. 

This is the book that will be talked about over and over, so do NOT miss this one! 

About the Author:

Miranda Sherry grew up in Johannesburg in a house full of books, and began writing stories at the age of seven. A few decades, and a variety of jobs - from puppeteer to bartender, and musician - later, she is now a full time writer. She continues to live in Johannesburg, with the love of her life, and her two weird cats.

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