The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo: A Novelby Peter Orner
When Mavala Shikongo deserted them, the teachers at the boys' school in Goas weren't surprised. How could they be? She was too beautiful, too powerful, and too mysterious for their tiny, remote, and arid world. They knew only one essential fact about their departed colleague: she was a combat veteran of Namibia's brutal war for independence. When Mavala returns to Goas with a baby son, all are awed by her boldness. The teachers try hard, once again, not to fall in love with her. They fail, immediately and miserably, especially the American volunteer, Larry Kaplanski.
voice and story that I can't imagine my shelves now without it."
"Lyrical, comical, full-blown . . . A gifted short-story writer gives us his first booklength work of fiction, and does so with flair and panache."Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
"Mavala Shikongo is one of the most deftly rendered and unforgettable characters in recent fiction. The men of Goas fall in love with her and the reader is helpless, too--she is a revolution unto herself. Orner's book is always elegant and always true, and its wistful and even hallucinatory mood haunts the mind for months after finishing it."Dave Eggers
"Peter Orner's debut reads like a perfectly formed masterpiece of such idiosyncratic
voice and story that I can't imagine my shelves now without it."Alexandra Fuller, author of
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- Little, Brown and Company
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Meet the Author
Peter Orner has received many honors for his fiction, including the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Goldberg Prize from the Foundation of Jewish Culture, and a 2006 Guggenheim fellowship
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The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
In The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, Peter Orner does a great job of keeping the reader interested. He uses good details and fascinating subjects that make the reader crave for more. The book takes place at a school in Africa, and tells the tales of what has happened there, and the stories happening there at that very moment. It takes place around 1987 after the War for Independence and around the time when the South West African People¿s Organization was trying to become the dominant party. However, the book doesn¿t focus these events, but instead focuses on the stories of people who have encountered these events in their life.
The main character and narrator of the story is a teacher at the school in Africa. Although his name is never given off, the reader learns enough about him, that his name seems unnecessary, but keeps the reader¿s interest high. It is through the narrator¿s eyes that the reader learns about other characters, which gives the book an attention-grabbing point of view. The reason this point of view is so intriguing is because sometimes the narrator tells stories about people who have what seem to be secret lives. The reader will never know what is really going on inside of these people¿s minds who have secret lives, which gives the reader some curiousness, and more of a need to keep reading.
The whole story tells the daily life of the main character, and all of his thoughts and emotions towards the other characters. Eventually the book turns into a story of internal conflict with the main character and his feelings for another teacher at the school named Mavala Shikongo. The narrator has these emotions throughout the whole book, but has a hard time of trying to show his emotions to Mavala Shikong with out getting in trouble. He feels as if he has lost his chances with her when he sees Mavala pack her bags and leave. However, the book wouldn¿t be called The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo with out the return of Mavala Shikongo. When Mavala comes back for her job, she brings an unexpected guest, her new son. This messes up everyone¿s outlook on Mavala, and causes even more mixed emotions for the narrator.
The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo is a great book because it keeps the readers on their toes, and never ceases the reader¿s curiosity towards the characters in the book. Mavala leaves early in the book, and returns soon after, which makes the reader question what is so important about Mavala¿s second coming. This goes to show that even the title grabs the reader, which hints that the whole book is going to make the reader never want to put the book down.
In 1991 Cincinnati, Ohio resident Jewish idealist Larry Kaplanski accepts a position to teach English and history in Goas, Nambia at a boys¿ only Catholic School. Larry like the other four male volunteers already working there Larry finds the desert climate unbearable and the locale lonely and tedious with little to do. --- Not long after Larry arrived in Nambia, Mavala Shikongo, the sister-in-law of the school¿s principal, shows up for a short while. The former female civil war soldier does not stay long before vanishing only to return soon afterward with a small boy accompanying her. She becomes a teacher at the school. Her peers are bewitched by Mavala and so are many of her students perhaps because she is the only available game in town. Still while the other male teachers seek female companionship in a nearby village, she and Larry begin rendezvousing however like the vanishing sheep she disappears again leaving her lover to wonder if his beloved will ever return to him. --- The vivid portrayal of the climate (endless drought), the symbolism of the vanishing sheep and the failed farm turned church school, and the aftermath of a bitter civil war make this a poignant but not easy to read complex tale. The harshness rightfully so permeates the cast and subsequently the audience. Larry seems like a fish out of water as he realizes he cannot teach, fumbles at lovemaking, and has not adapted to the environs except when he is with Mavala. She is an enigma, coming and going in at first thought like a wisp, but is actually much deeper. Though the support cast never seems fully developed, THE SECOND COMING OF MAVALA SHIKONGO is a deep look at Nambia at a time of hope and despair. --- Harriet Klausner