The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Part of World Book Night 2013 http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/books/alumni/2013
The universe sent this book to me through a delightful student who happens to be related to another student who gave me a book by Vaclav Havel that I have yet to read.
I know where they are from, but I forget and or twist around to Moldoamenia, Slovakosavo, Sloveniagovinia, Ukranistan to make them laugh.
It works and a few other students get it too.
The rest shake their heads and fight the itch to check their phones.
Before I start Book #83 I asked my student if she'd REALLY read this book. It looked so plain and white and maybe even weird I couldn't tell if she just picked it up and gave it to me for no good reason.
It's great, really, she says and I don't want to believe her.
I ask which is better, this book or one by Vaclav Havel. She doesn't even hesitate to pick this book. I'm swayed a little. Maybe. Ish.
I bring the book home and grade stacks of exams (140 exams with 10 essays each = a lot of math) with the book next to me.
It doesn't call to me, and I don't feel like reading.
I put it next to my bed, lay my phone on it and sleep.
The next day I carry the book to campus and bring it to Charlotte.
Charlotte knows Things.
People who are lost and confused and befuddled come to her and she helps. She has the best blend of worldliness and common sense a person could hope for and on top of that she is Never Wrong.
I offer two books and ask her to pick one.
Without hesitation she picks Book #83 and then asks if she can borrow it when I finish.
Whoa. Wow. That good?
She nods and turns back to solving other things.
That night I open the book and exactly by page three I knew I was reading treasure, the kind of book that circulates between sisters and family and friends and that someone is always begging to borrow.
The setting was jarring and beautiful, the characters meaty and real, the writing pristine and witty.
That's when I flipped to the back cover of the book and saw this book was part of a series for World Book Night US 2013. Every book and author I recognize on the list is amazing. These are the Big Leagues -- Tina Fay, Paulo Coelho, Willa Cather, Mark Twain. No joking around.
Here is a link to all the books -- bookmark it for the day you find yourself hunting for SOMETHING to read. http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/books/alumni/2013
Book #83 book belongs there. The main character, Mma Ramotswe, loses her father and inherits enough money to open a business. She chooses to become a private detective, and her adventures take the reader through pieces of post-colonial Africa rarely imagined or discussed in popular culture.
The chapters are stories of mysteries solved, love rebuked and trickery exposed. I loved every bit of it, and I'm not going to give you the plot because you are GOING to read this book.
On wealth: "What point is it to be rich if you can't sit around and watch your cattle graze?" Yes. I get it. I don't have cattle, but I get it.
On shoes: “Perhaps her shoes would say something; Mma Makutsi had told her once, jokingly— and she must have been joking— told her that her shoes occasionally gave her advice. Well, perhaps they could tell her not to be so bossy. They must have witnessed it after all— shoes see everything; there are no secrets we can keep from our shoes.”
Pumkinlicious: “Talking about pumpkins doesn't make them grow.” I am so going to use that. You can too.
And also this meditation on being fully present during grief and pain: “It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”
On enduring heartache: “We don't forget.... Our heads may be small, but they are as full of memories as the sky may sometimes be full of swarming bees, thousands and thousands of memories, of smells, of places, of little things that happened to us and which came back, unexpectedly, to remind us who we are.”
On war: “If more women were in power, they wouldn't let wars break out," she said. "Women can't be bothered with all this fighting. We see war for what it is- a matter of broken bodies and crying mothers.”
On government: “That is the problem with governments these days. They want to do things all the time; they are always very busy thinking of what things they can do next. That is not what people want. People want to be left alone to look after their cattle.”
On friendship: “You can go through life and make new friends every year – every month practically – but there was never any substitute for those friendships of childhood that survive into adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steel.”
Look up Alexander McCall Smith.
He's my new favorite author and I totally intend to binge read the rest of this series.
I can't even imagine what book could follow this one.
I'll ask Charlotte tomorrow.