16 Must-Read Books for January 2013

A love song for a divided country, an abandoned girl's hunt for home...and more!

White Dog Fell from the Sky

368 pages; Viking
Eleanor Morse captures the magic of the African landscape and the terror and degradation of life under apartheid in White Dog Fell from the Sky, a tense and heartfelt novel set in 1977: The story centers around Isaac Muthethe, a medical student who flees South Africa after military officials throw one of his peers under a train. He is smuggled across the border into Botswana in a hearse, only to be left unconscious by the side of the road; the sole witness to his mistreatment is the thin white dog of the title, a symbol of perseverance and patience. When, coincidentally, Isaac encounters an old school friend named Amen, who is aligned with violent freedom fighters, Isaac's fate is sealed: "Later, he'd look back and see that this moment led to another that led all the way down a road he'd never meant to travel." He works quietly as a gardener for an empathetic and unhappy American woman, Alice, until his simple desire to earn enough money to rescue his family spirals into a nightmare of misunderstanding and suffering. The trials and discoveries of Isaac and Alice, whose relationship is one of mutual admiration and respect, unfold in parallel plotlines, although their lives collide when Isaac goes missing and Alice's search for him forces a confession. Morse, who spent four years living on the continent, working with refugees and traveling, channels her fascination with the factious regions into her courageous characters, whose story roars along and arrives, finally, at hope.
— Louisa Ermelino

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