Today I am so happy to bring you a review of If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais, now available from Putnam Books! I bought her debut due to the impeccable reviews and gorgeous cover, but alas, I have not read it yet. This book has me even more eager to drop everything and read it now!
I knew within the first couple of pages of If You Want to Make God Laugh I was reading something special. The writing instantly drew me in, as did the characters’ stories.
If You Want to Make God Laugh is the story of three strong women. When we meet Zodwa, she’s seventeen and pregnant, living in a squatter camp outside of Johannesburg. People were living in these camps to look for work and escape peril, only to find South Africa on the verge of a civil war and perhaps more poverty than from where they’d come.
Ruth is a socialite struggling with mental health and an estranged marriage.
Delilah is a former nun, who left the clergy in disgrace, and is working in an orphanage.
These women’s lives connect, and the story blossoms when Ruth and Delilah are gifted a newborn baby.
There are many, many things here I can tell you I loved. Marais’ writing is like butter, so silky smooth, and she quickly draws you in with her impeccable storytelling. She hooked me to each main character quickly, with their relatable, likable, and vulnerable qualities.
I didn’t know much previously about this post-Apartheid time in South Africa. It led to a great discussion with my father as he shared what he remembered from his own reading and awareness during that time. Racial disparities, the AIDS crisis, and all of the civil unrest. It’s hard to imagine this was a time in recent history and the grave injustices that occurred.
At the heart of the story, though, is these women sharing messages of what it takes to be a mother and how love defines us all. You don’t have to be a fan of historical fiction to love this story. The 90s weren’t that long ago. I think there’s something for everyone here in this beautiful book!
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
About the Book:
From the author of the beloved Hum if You Don’t Know the Words comes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time, and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.
In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.
Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it’s what she can’t have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to lick their wounds, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.
As the mystery surrounding the infant grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?
Have you read If You Want to Make God Laugh, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR