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White Dog Fell from the Sky

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  2,589 Ratings  ·  471 Reviews
An extraordinary novel of love, friendship, and betrayal for admirers of Abraham Verghese and Edwidge Danticat

Eleanor Morse’s rich and intimate portrait of Botswana, and of three people whose intertwined lives are at once tragic and remarkable, is an absorbing and deeply moving story.

In apartheid South Africa in 1976, medical student Isaac Muthethe is forced to flee his
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 3rd 2013 by Viking
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Kathie Walker I believe White Dog symbolizes a guardian angel who watches over them.

“White Dog would not leave his side. She knew his grief, this dog, who was more…more
I believe White Dog symbolizes a guardian angel who watches over them.

“White Dog would not leave his side. She knew his grief, this dog, who was more than a dog, this dog who had fallen from the sky.” (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
No spoilers here, folks. I'll leave that to the blurters among us.

In the late 1970s, two African countries that share a border had radically different racial policies. The South African government was still allowing unspeakable atrocities in the name of apartheid. In contrast, Botswana had a black president married to a white woman, and its people were seeking racial harmony.

This cross-border contrast is central to the story, but it's only one of the themes Eleanor Morse covers in this strongl
Feb 05, 2013 Jill rated it it was amazing
Every now and then, someone asks me, “Why do I read?” My answer is because of books like this – a book that embraces me in its world, shattering my heart and then restoring it again.

The first character we meet is Isaac Muthethe, a young medical student who was forced to flee South Africa for Botswana after witnessing his friend’s death by the white South African Defense Force. Upon arriving there, he is quickly “adopted” by a skinny white dog. Fate brings him – and the dog -- to the home of Alic
Julie Christine
Dec 29, 2012 Julie Christine rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Julie Christine by: Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"
White Dog Fell from the Sky is as beautiful and profound a novel about love as any I have read. With grace and power it presents all the forms of love the heart is capable of holding: love born of compassion and of passion, love of family and of country, the blinding, feral love for one’s children, for any child, the helpless love for suffering animals, the love of justice that compels us to act, despite our fear.

The story unfolds in Botswana in the mid-1970’s. Across the border in South Africa
Apr 26, 2013 Lulu rated it it was amazing
If I could, I'd give this book six stars. Or seven. To set it apart from all the others. Personally, this book had all the elements I look for in a good read. It was well written and utterly lyrical in places, it had a bit of history, a bit of romance, a bit of mischief making, and it had an important story to tell; both about racism, and about preservation of culture and wildlife. I loved the characters, I laughed, I cried, I was scared and anxious, I was heartbroken, I was relieved. I felt the ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 07, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
3.5 Issac, a young black man flees for his life from apartheid South Africa, after witnessing a friends' murder. He seeks shelter in Botswana. and takes a position as far from his previous educated one of a medical student and meets a white woman who works for the land development branch of the government. This books is extremely well written, alternately beautiful when describing the country and horrible, when describing more inhuman acts that man continually perpetuates on others. The dog of t ...more
Irene Mcintyre
Feb 17, 2013 Irene Mcintyre rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
2 and 1/2 stars if I could. Will write more later.
Jan 05, 2013 Booknblues rated it it was amazing
White Dog Fell From the Sky
By Eleanor Morse
5 stars
pp. 354

You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher
Oh Biko, Biko,
because Biko Yihla Moja,
Yihla Moja -
The man is dead

And the eyes of the world are
watching now
watching now


Morning Star shone brightly between night and day, brighter than before because he knew he had to stay vigilant against the forces of darkness in the universe. ~ Eleanor Morse ~
Mar 14, 2013 Suzanne rated it really liked it
White Dog Fell from the Sky is not an apt title for Morse's heart felt novel about Alice, a white American living in Botswana and Isaac, a South African who has arrived in Botswana in a hearse. underneath a coffin.

Isaac, a medical student, forced to flee Johannesburg , finds employment as a gardener just as Alice's marriage is ending. This is a love story, but no, not between Isaac and Alice.

Alice has left Cincinnati and married her boy friend who had moved to Botswana . Though the novel fills i
Mar 09, 2013 Marsha rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read! It is an incredible story about love, respect, integrity, loyalty and hope. It takes place in the late 1970's in the country of Botswana during the Apartheid period. One of the main characters, Alice, is a white American woman who came to Botswana with her husband. Her counterpart, Isaac, is a highly intelligent, black man who escaped from the horrors and atrocities of racial prejudice in South Africa. An amazing white dog "adopted" Isaac ...more
Friederike Knabe
Feb 28, 2013 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
It is rare that I read a book over a couple of days (besides having a busy travel weekend). This novel is impossible to put down or to let the story of the main characters slip from your mind. Review to follow shortly.
Dec 23, 2012 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
Bad things happening to good people. Good writing, compelling story. But sad. You have to be in the mood for sad--love found and lost, political repression, torture.This is not Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana. It reminded me more of the writing from Latin America in the 1970s, 1980s.

Interesting metaphor/symbolism in the veterinary fences across Botswana--senseless suffering. Simple goals, politically, crashing into a murderous force.
May 07, 2015 Cindy rated it really liked it
What a beautiful and well written book but oh so sad and heart wrenching. It made me angry then hopeful and eventually in tears. I highly recommend this brutal yet tender novel.
I have book shelf where I keep my "keeper" books about Africa, both fiction and non-fiction. Some have been with me for a long time, as Africa has long been a passion and an itch that other than a two week tour of Tunisia pre-Arab Spring, I've not scratched. And I am a big fan of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (especially in audio), a series that had me doing Google searches on Botswana and becoming captivated by the country - a stable, African democracy. So when I saw that Eleanor Mo ...more
Bonnie Brody
White Dog Fell From the Sky is bound to be one of the ten best books I've read this year. It is an ode to love, tenacity, and an homage to the indigenous people of Botswana.

The novel has two story lines, both taking place in 1976. The first is that of Isaac Muthethe, a young South African man who is in his first year of medical school when his good friend, an apartheid activist, is killed by the South African police. Isaac witnesses this and knows that his own life is in danger and so he escapes
Apr 25, 2014 Jan rated it it was amazing
Isaac Muthethe is one of the most memorable characters I’ve met in recent novels. An escapee from South Africa into neighboring and more liberal Botswana in the mid-1970s, he brings with him hope for a life free of fear, a wisdom earned in the harsh realities of apartheid, a willingness to work hard, and the wish to avoid political conflict. He also desperately wants to save the family members he had to leave behind.

When he is dumped from the vehicle carrying him across the border, a stray whit
Mark Landmann
Jul 22, 2014 Mark Landmann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
There were some lovely and interesting parts of this book, mainly in the descriptions of the landscape, culture and politics of newly independent Botswana. I also enjoyed the ending very much. But it's not a book I'd recommend. I'm glad to be done with it and did think about giving up on it a third of the way through. I find it so hard to do. Though the characters were mostly well-drawn, complex and believable, somehow I never believed in the relationships between them. Often I didn't find the d ...more
Mar 18, 2013 Sally rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the story of two people in 1970s Botswana, a young man named Isaac and a woman named Alice. Isaac is black, forced to flee his native South Africa for fear of his life. Alice is white, in an unhappy marriage and trying to find meaning in life. Isaac comes to work for her as a gardener. For the first part of the book, I felt disconnected from the characters, unable to identify with their pain, especially Alice. She seemed too passive and self-absorbed, waiting for something to happen but ...more
Dec 15, 2012 Guylou rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
One sentence from the book says it all: "It's a fearful thing to love what death can touch." This book is like a lover's kiss which leaves you breathless. I could not put it down. It was like it was the only thing that could quench my thirst. I had to know what the next chapter would bring.

I knew at a high level what happened in South Africa during the Apartheid, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. This book has shared with me the humanity of this period. It helped me realise the fear, the
Alice  Heiserman
Jan 21, 2013 Alice Heiserman rated it it was amazing
What made this a five-star-book was the unique setting: Botswana, the unique characters of Alice Mendleson and Isaac and the many supporting characters who advance the plot, and the beautfy of the writing including the symbolism of the white dog and the garden. Here is a sample of the style:
"She left on a Saturday. That night, White Dog slept just outside the kitchen door For the first time in Isaac's life there was no other breath signing near him at night. So much stillness, it felt like the
Jan 06, 2013 Leanne rated it it was amazing
I was pleased to receive this as a Goodreads Giveaway. When it arrived, I opened it to read the first couple of paragraphs, with the intention of reading it when I finished the book I had on the go. It grabbed me immediately, and I spent the next two days reading it every chance I got, until I finished it.

It was a very satisfying read, from beginning to end. It is well-written, with interesting characters and wonderful descriptions of Botswana. The author did a great job of weaving in political,
Sue Davis
"The bitter heart eats its owner."
This is an extraordinary plot-driven novel. The story is captivating and extremely moving. The overarching theme seems to be that there is a powerful resilience in all of us even in the face of the most extreme and horrible adversity--torture at the hands of vile, sadistic, white South Africans in the 1970s, in the case of Isaac. Also, the power of love and passion as well as friendship. The characters are people I want to make friends with and I feel the same
Jan 14, 2016 Gail rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, which tells about apartheid in South Africa in a personal, lyrical way. I loved that the author, a white woman who spent time in Africa (and now lives in Maine), was able to tell the story from the points of view of two characters -- a white American woman and a black South African man. Both seemed true.
Apr 20, 2017 Saoirse rated it really liked it
Must read.
Mar 14, 2017 Terry rated it really liked it
I admit that I was not very happy initially that Alice's story intruded on Isaac's story. I was disappointed whenever her story took me away from the compelling narrative of Isaac's attempt to live outside the chilling shadow of apartheid. By the end of this powerful, graphic indictment of the racial animosity which shattered the families and lives of the "non-white" people of South Africa I was reconciled to Alice's place in the story.
Chris Witkowski
Jun 08, 2014 Chris Witkowski rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful, heartbreaking, book, set in Botswana in the mid 1970s, that tells the story of Issac, Alice and Ian, three people living vastly different lives, each of whom finds a way to overcome the tremendous obstacles that come their way. If I had to pick one word to sum up the quality that each of them possesses it would be courage. For Ian it is the courage of his convictions that leads him to fight the policies of the government-backed plan to prevent the spread of disease among liv ...more
Rita Welty Bourke
Isaac Muthethe, a young medical student from South Africa, witnesses the brutal murder of a friend by the South African Defense Force. Fearing for his own life under the apartheid regime of the mid-1970s, he flees his homeland, leaving behind his family and his dreams of a career.

Dumped from a hearse into a dusty field just inside the border of Botswanna, Isaac awakens to find a white dog sitting next to him. The dog becomes his faithful companion, following him into the city of Gabarone, to the
May 23, 2017 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Powerful. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Can't wait to discuss this one with my book group.
May 17, 2013 Crizzle rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-fiction
That's it. I'm going back to Young Adult fiction. First of all, the entire time I was trying to read this, I'd get phone calls/texts from Justiney about HARRY POTTER; I'd get wrapped up in some amazing Hogwartsy discussion with her... and then I'd have to come back to this depressing, at times gross and at times boring book. There was one time in which I got very excited, "he was walking to the Ministry of"... MAGIC?!?!?! IS HE A WIZARD?!!? "...Local Goverment and Lands" or something extremely b ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
It is 1976 and Isaac Muthethe, a black South African, witnesses the death of another man at the hands of white men. It is no longer safe for Isaac to remain in South Africa. He finds a way to be smuggled across the border into Botswana. The first thing he sees in Botswana is a white dog which is sitting beside him. It follows him as he makes his way to town. A few days later, he finds work as a gardener for Alice Mendelssohn, an American working in Botswana. When Alice has to go away on a busin ...more
I give this 5 stars, despite the narrator who isn't nearly good enough--multiple mispronunciations, bad accents. She has a lovely voice and her African accents, for black and white characters, sound authentic, but the mistakes took me out of the story. That said, this is a powerful story filled with richly realized characters and provocative social issues that reflect both Apartheid and ecological problems. The language is, as Publisher's Weekly writes, "brutal and beautiful." There's a cadence ...more
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“It's a fearful thing to love what death can touch.” 6 likes
“We are doorways, openings into something greater than ourselves, something that we don't understand and will never understand. We have nothing precious in and of ourselves. We are only precious in that we are part of something that is too big to know.” 5 likes
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