The Boy Next Door

( 5 )

Overview

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, there is a tragedy in the house next door to Lindiwe Bishop--her neighbor has been burned alive. The victim's stepson, Ian McKenzie, is the prime suspect but is soon released. Lindiwe can't hide her fascination with this young, boisterous and mysterious white man, and they soon forge an unlikely closeness even as the country starts to deteriorate.

Years after circumstances split them apart, Ian returns to a much-changed Zimbabwe to see Lindiwe, now a ...

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The Boy Next Door

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Overview

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, there is a tragedy in the house next door to Lindiwe Bishop--her neighbor has been burned alive. The victim's stepson, Ian McKenzie, is the prime suspect but is soon released. Lindiwe can't hide her fascination with this young, boisterous and mysterious white man, and they soon forge an unlikely closeness even as the country starts to deteriorate.

Years after circumstances split them apart, Ian returns to a much-changed Zimbabwe to see Lindiwe, now a sophisticated, impassioned young woman, and discovers a devastating secret that will alter both of their futures, and draw them closer together even as the world seems bent on keeping them apart. The Boy Next Door is a moving and powerful debut about two people finding themselves and each other in a time of national upheaval.

Winner of the 2010 Orange Award for New Writers

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  • The Boy Next Door
    The Boy Next Door  

Editorial Reviews

Debra Ginsberg
Irene Sabatini's remarkable debut novel about Zimbabwe is a kaleidoscopic blend of elements encompassing everything from coming of age and first love to race, nationalism and the rapid degradation of a once-thriving country. The story is at once sprawling and intimate, political and personal.... [Sabatini] is able to convey the evolution of Lindiwe and Ian's complex relationship with brilliant nuance and depth. Her portrayal of their different but ultimately connected views on race, family and country is masterful. Like Lindiwe, Sabatini grew up in Bulawayo and was educated in Harare. Like many first novels, this story has an autobiographical feel, but one that adds authenticity and immediacy to the narrative. Sabatini's descriptions of Zimbabwe—its people, its languages, its politics, its beauty and its despair—are absolutely stunning and not to be missed.
Shelf Awareness
Booklist
"Sabatini, who grew up in Harare and Bulawayo, offers a beautifully written first novel that explores the complexities of post-independent Zimbabwe--ever-shifting affinities of race, family, and other affiliations--through the love story of a mixed-race couple."
author of The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo Peter Orner

PRAISE FOR THE BOY NEXT DOOR:

"Irene Sabatini's captivating first novel, The Boy Next Door, offers readers a rare and often painfully honest glimpse into life in post-independent Zimbabwe. And yet there is much light and hope and yes, love--genuine and hard-earned--in this book as well. A true pleasure."

Debra Ginsberg - Shelf Awareness
"Irene Sabatini's remarkable debut novel about Zimbabwe is a kaleidoscopic blend of elements encompassing everything from coming of age and first love to race, nationalism and the rapid degradation of a once-thriving country. The story is at once sprawling and intimate, political and personal.... [Sabatini] is able to convey the evolution of Lindiwe and Ian's complex relationship with brilliant nuance and depth. Her portrayal of their different but ultimately connected views on race, family and country is masterful. Like Lindiwe, Sabatini grew up in Bulawayo and was educated in Harare. Like many first novels, this story has an autobiographical feel, but one that adds authenticity and immediacy to the narrative. Sabatini's descriptions of Zimbabwe--its people, its languages, its politics, its beauty and its despair--are absolutely stunning and not to be missed."
Publishers Weekly
Sabatini debuts with a love story set against the backdrop of Mugabe's Zimbabwe, from its independence in the 1980s to the decline of democracy in the 1990s. Lindiwe Bishop is 14 when her neighbor, 17-year-old Ian McKenzie, is charged with killing his mother. Lindiwe's shy, at the top of her class and from the first black family that settled in Bulawayo after integration. Ian is boisterous, a dropout and from the last white family remaining in the neighborhood. They only meet briefly before he is jailed, and when he's released a year and a half later they strike up a secret friendship that largely consists of Lindiwe listening to Ian talk. Their friendship endures another hiatus—this one for 10 years—when Ian goes to South Africa, and when the two reconnect, Lindiwe is a spitfire. Subplots of varying interest—the question of Ian's fidelity, whether one of Lindiwe's friends is shacking up with corrupt officials—crop up, but most lack resolution or are abandoned soon after they're raised. Sabatini's writing is fine and shows the potential in this developing talent. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
An interracial relationship plays out against Zimbabwe's slow disintegration in this elliptical first novel. Lindiwe Bishop is a colored (mixed race) girl in a country where race and tribe matter enormously. It's 1982, two years since blacks achieved majority rule after a brutal war, but suspicions and resentments simmer. Fourteen-year-old Lindiwe has three stories to tell: her own, her neighbor's and her country's. The McKenzies next door are the last whites in a previously all-white suburb of Bulawayo. Ian, 17, has just been accused of killing his stepmother by setting her on fire. After he's released on appeal (his confession was coerced), he and Lindiwe become friends. Quiet, bookish Lindiwe has complete faith in Ian's innocence. He may talk like a Rhodie (redneck), but she senses his underlying gentleness and is grateful for his attention, something her withdrawn parents don't provide. Lindiwe describes her feelings with such restraint that though she and Ian have a night of love before he leaves for South Africa, we don't know this at the time, nor that it will produce a baby. There are other disconcerting lacunae. Ian's mentally ill mother hovers on the margins, and we don't learn the truth about his stepmother's fiery death; Ian's different versions are not definitive. After a seven-year hiatus, Ian returns. He's a photojournalist; Lindiwe is a university student. She dumps the middle-aged French doctor she's been seeing (another gap), then, on Ian's insistence, pries their son David away from her mother so they can raise him together. Sabatini crams the story with incidents and paints a grim picture of the Mugabe regime, but she never manages to convince us of the durability ofthe lovers' relationship, which is key. Ian never quite gets the race thing-he's astonished when David is the target of schoolyard taunts-but Lindiwe accepts his obtuseness because, well, he's her man. Sabatini is an effective miniaturist but fumbles the big picture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316049931
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 9/8/2009
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Irene Sabatini spent her childhood in the laid back city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, gobbling up books from the Public Library. After University in Harare she ventured across continents to Colombia, excited by the chance to live in, learn from, and be inspired by a new culture. One early morning she found herself in the lush countryside outside Bogotá, sitting on the veranda of a former Dominican monastery: in the quiet, she opened a red notebook and started writing. She has yet to stop.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2013

    This was very emotional book that touched you to the core. Set i

    This was very emotional book that touched you to the core. Set in Africa Zimbabwe during the current war and glimpses of previous wars (conflicts). It is a sad book however well written. It touches our humanity on many levels, family, community, country politics, personal growth and many other aspects of life. This book makes you think and ask yourself if I'd be in Lindiwe's shoes would I do the same? I also was taken by character Ian - the man had guts and sense of duty regardless of his social status. It truly opened my eyes on some social issues that I had no perspective on at all. Great book!

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  • Posted January 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An unusual and moving coming of age story

    The Boy Next Door, like many good stories, is difficult to characterize. The story of Lindiwe is a coming of age story and a love story. But since begins in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, The Boy Next Door gives us unique insight into the political upheaval and violence that accompanied those early years of independence from British rule.

    Lindiwe and Ian McKenzie are both interesting and sympathetic characters in their own right, but the extraordinary circumstances that they find themselves in makes The Boy Next Door an engrossing and memorable read. Irene Sabatini has come up with a brilliant debut novel and I look forward to reading her next work.

    Publisher:Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 8, 2009), 416 pages.
    ISBN: 031604993X
    Review copy provided by the publisher.

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  • Posted November 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Extraordinary Debut

    Breathe in. And out. Where do I begin with this review?

    I received this book from Hachette Book Group; I'll start there. It sat on my bookcase for a while before I was ready to pick it up; it was intimidating and large and serious looking and I knew I needed to be ready for it. I started it, and fifty pages in I stopped and restarted it, and I'm glad I did. Restarting it allowed me to settle in with the narrative voice, it let me be fully familiar with Lindiwe and the way she uses memories to fill in the past so I can understand what makes the present so profound. The Boy Next Door is epic. It spans decades. It follows Lindiwe from adolescence through her transformation into a woman. She is fourteen when the novel starts, and her seventeen year old neighbor has been arrested for lighting his stepmother on fire. That's how the novel starts. But that's not where it stays. It follows Lindiwe and her neighbor, Ian, through post-independant Zimbabwe, through race tensions, and revolutionary riots, and love ,and loss, and danger.

    Part 1 begins in the 1980's. Lindiwe is a young girl, shy, surrounded by racism and a country in transformation. Ian seems worldly to her, having been released from prison and returned to Bulawayo. They form an unlikely friendship, secret from the world. They are pulled together by an inexplicable bond that lasts through war and riots and years apart.

    Part 2, the early 90's, finds Lindiwe grown into a young woman, attending school, with a future. Her childhood crush develops into something mature and deep. But there is always an overhanging sense of unease in Sabatini's writing; as though we know this happiness between Ian and Lindiwe cannot possibly last and be peaceful for the next 200 pages.

    Part 3, the mid 90's becomes quick and tense. Revolutionary turmoil abounds, people are killed and murdered and violence surrounds them. The tension continues into the late 90's in Part 4. It peaks and I was left breathless waiting for the end. There is so much more I could write, but it would spoil the novel and you really need to read it and experience it first-hand.

    Sabatini's debut novel is intense and beautiful and artistic. She captures Bulawayo and other places in Zimbabwe and they become characters in her writing, living breathing, forming new stories. The relationship she paints between Ian and Lindiwe is enormous and tragic and joyous all at the same time, it flows up and down with a life of its own, and we're taken along in the river and cannot escape. We could hardly wish to.

    This novel was a debut novel, and it was beautiful. I had tears in my eyes. I suspect we'll all be hearing about Irene Sabatini in the future.

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    Posted March 30, 2011

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    Posted October 14, 2011

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