Mary Helene's Reviews > The White Lioness

The White Lioness by Henning Mankell
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's review
Sep 28, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: mysteries
Read in September, 2011

** spoiler alert ** The questions here: in the face of horrific evil, is it possible to believe in God? If not God, then goodness? If not goodness, then the value of living our small, quotidian, daily lives? Does love factor in here? (Familial love? Romantic love?) What about – doing our job? (In religious language, this is following our call.)
All this addressed and more.

The first couple of pages end with "Good God, help me" just as the innocent victim is killed. On p.73 “ ‘He has faith in God,’ Pastor Tureson said…Wallander thought, ‘we’ll see if that’s enough.’”
The question posed. We are finally led to p.328 “The world was helpless in the face of such evil…He had no idea what to do.” And yet: step by step (or, as Dorothy Day used to say, “by little and by little”) with missed connections and by the thinnest of margins, by the simple daily doing of the next step, inspired by whatever we shall call that amazing moment of disinterested love, multiplied, we are not helpless.

Tania, nameless most of the time, is crucified; the references are clear: 5 bullet holes in the same places as the 5 wounds of Christ Crucified, tortured on the head before she died. I went back over the scenes to see how she had come to her decision. At the very end she thinks “Tania was very tired, but what she had done was right….I’ll do the best I can for her…Every breath gives her a better chance. The game is up for me.” What was the beginning of this surprising decision? On p.335 she visits Wallander’ s daughter in the cave and can see her fear. “She knew now she would have to help the girl. It would cost her her life, but she had no choice. Konovalenko’s evil was too great to bear, even for her.”

I went to an International Day of Peace celebration this past week. The main speaker, Rosalinda Guillen, said, “ We are not radical enough.” And she’s right. Evil exists because we are not. What will bring us to make those radical choices?

p.s. I've been mulling this for a day. It is NOT the radical choices which comprise the good: it is the small choices as this story exquisitely demonstrates: the thrown rock, the probing question, the decision to send one last tedious report, the effort to report something odd, at risk to oneself. Most of this we might term wasted - a CD recovered by a thief, who doesn't deserve a thank you? It's the small details we miss unless we, as Wallander does, sit in a different chair and look at the scene from a different angle. Even the radical choices depend on the small. All of it waits on these muddled margins. The radical choice is the small one.
p.p.s. I keep mulling this book, and so just boosted the rating to 5 star. Another though occurred to me: the curious lack of professionalism when Wallander tries to send the South African home. On reflection the author may be trying to demonstrate that the struggle against evil is not a matter of following rules and "being good" but a struggle to personally confront systems and take risks, against, sometimes, all reason.

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