"Cry, The Beloved Country"

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Here's another title from my "Guilt List" that turned out to be a wonderful surprise. It's absolutely beautiful. Beautiful writing, beautiful characters, beautiful story.

Set in Africa, it is the story of a church minister who receives word that his younger sister is sick and needs help. She had gone to Johannesburg to look for her missing husband and has not been heard from in a long time. The minister's son then went to look for his aunt and he also has not been heard from in many months. Reluctantly taking the very small savings he and his wife have scraped together for other things, the minister, Stephen, travels to the city.

The story of how he finds his sister and his son, what condition he finds them in and how their lives all unfold from that point is heartbreaking and inspiring and so authentic that I have a hard time remembering it's fiction and not someone's true story.

The thing that had the greatest impact on me, and that I don't think I will ever forget, is the nobility of some of the characters, the greatness of their souls. The simple, honest choosing of right over wrong, the humble considering of others first even in the worst of circumstances is heartening. Even knowing the story is a work of fiction, I found my hope for, and faith in, humanity being bolstered, and my own desire to be a better person strengthened. Don't take that to mean this book is in any way sentimental or predictable. As a parent, it was one of the most painful stories I've ever read. But it made me feel hopeful too. Hopeful that no matter what may happen to us, we can choose to do the right thing and to be honorable even when no one is watching.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I think the world would have to be a better place if every person read it. There's a phrase in the second paragraph of the fourth chapter that went straight to my heart and I think it sums up my feelings about this book: it was "lovely beyond any singing of it." Beautiful.


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