Beth's Reviews > Cry the Beloved Country

Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
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Feb 19, 08

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Read in November, 2006

I was supposed to read Cry, the Beloved Country my senior year of high school. But you know how senior year is. Well, I wasn’t like that — promise. I wasn’t one who started slacking because I had my acceptance letter to college in hand. But I did decide that I didn’t really care for English, and that I found my European History class much more fascinating, and thus I spent all my study time pouring over my history textbook instead of my English novels (especially since the in-class discussions were detailed enough to ace the tests by).

It was my loss, I guess, because this book is excellent. More than a story of racial inequality, social problems, and injustice (which is what I remember about the plot from high school), this is first and foremost a story of forgiveness and hope.

There are many reasons for South Africa, the country commanded to “cry” in the title, to do just that: poverty and famine drive many to choose paths that are less than admirable, sometimes immoral. And there and many reasons for the main character, a humble priest from a rural Zulu tribe, to give up his faith in both God and humanity — and yet throughout the story there is a calm sense of hope for the future. Stephen Kumalo meets good men along his tragic journey that give hope to him and to the country as a whole: friends, family, and even one who should be his deepest enemy. And Kumalo himself is one to be emulated: for his meekness and gratitude, for his acceptance of trials, for his charity, and even for his occasional human-ness but then sincerely repentant nature. To enjoy a book, I have to have a main character to at the least empathize with — Kumalo is one that I not only appreciate but admire.

And the writing is downright lyrical in some places. It’s easy to see why it’s a modern classic.

Being awakened to the injustices of prejudice and poverty is all right, but this book does more than that — it inspires hope in the midst of hard times. A book to add to my long list of favorites. ;-)

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