Here’s the book description:
“Mortals chronicles the misadventures of three ex-pat Americans: Ray Finch, a contract CIA agent, operating undercover as an English instructor in a private school; his beautiful but slightly foolish and disaffected wife, Iris, with whom he is obsessively in love; and Davis Morel, an iconoclastic black holistic physician, who is on a personal mission to “lift the yoke of Christian belief from Africa.”
The passions of these three entangle them with a local populist leader, Samuel Kerekang, whose purposes are grotesquely misconstrued by the CIA, fixated as the agency is on the astonishing collapse of world socialism and the simultaneous, paradoxical triumph of radical black nationalism in South Africa, Botswana’s neighbor. And when a small but violent insurrection erupts in the wild northern part of the country, inspired by Kerekang but stoked by the erotic and political intrigues of the American trio—the outcome is explosive and often explosively funny.
Along the way, there are many pleasures. Letters from Ray’s brilliantly hostile brother and Iris’s woebegone sister provide a running commentary on contemporary life in America. Africa and Africans are powerfully evoked, and the expatriate scene is cheerfully skewered.
Through lives lived ardently in an unforgiving land, Mortals examines with wit and insight the dilemmas of power, religion, rebellion, and contending versions of liberation and love. It is a study of a marriage over time, and a man’s struggle to find his way when his private and public worlds are shifting. “
My daughter-in-law turned me on to this book; she thought I would enjoy it because it was set in Botswana. That was definitely part of my enjoyment. It took me back to my childhood, when Botswana was Bechuanaland, a British Protectorate governed by a paramount chiefBut it was Norman Rush’s seductive writing that captured and entranced me. How does he do it, I kept asking myself, how is he able to just keep going inside a character’s head, off on tangents not related to plot or to moving the story forward, making a point over and over again in different sometimes hilarious ways, sweeping me along. To some readers this is a turn-off, to me it was icing on the cake, a deep penetrating way to connect with the characters; it was like I had a ringside seat, one I could slip back into after being away a while and pick right up where I left off. I knew these people. I wanted to know more.
I just ordered Norman Rush’s “Mating,” which takes places before “Mortals.” Can’t wait.