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Cion by Zakes Mda


by Zakes Mda

Series: Toloki (2)

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I did, in fact, enjoy reading this book, as long as I didn't think too much about the overall storyline and focused mostly on the anecdotes and descriptions. It tells the story of Toloki, a professional mourner who, disillusioned with his life in South Africa, travels to the United States in search of mourning. He finds himself in a small town in Ohio, living for the better part of the book with the Quigley family: Ruth, the neoconservative matriarch of the family; Obed, her son, whom Toloki saves from sexual harassment charges at the start of the book; Mahlon, her silent husband who smiles as he sits over his garden in which nothing but gnomes and statues grow; and Orpah, her reclusive daughter who begins to haunt Toloki's dreams. The book mostly concerns itself with the day-to-day life of Toloki and the Quigleys, told in first-person, present tense. Their story is also interspersed with legends about the origins of the Quigleys, from escaped slaves in the Civil War to later Irish immigrants.

Only after finishing the novel and realizing that I don't feel much different having read it do I realize that it has a definite sense of being part of something greater, making me wish I had known it was a sequel to Mda's earlier Ways of Dying before I read it. The fact that it seems clear even on it's own that it covers new ground and retools ideas presented in the earlier book makes me think the two books must work very well together. On the whole, it was an enjoyable read, however, even if there were some things left unexplained that I assume I would have known had I read the previous book. ( )
  Fenoxielo | Dec 15, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312427069, Paperback)

A Picador Paperback Original
The hero of Zakes Mda's beloved Ways of Dying, Toloki, sets down with a family in Middle America and uncovers the story of the runaway slaves who were their ancestors.
Toloki, the professional mourner, has come to live in America. Lured to Athens, Ohio, by an academic at the local university, Toloki makes friends with an angry young man he meets at a Halloween parade and soon falls in love with the young man's sister. Toloki endears himself to a local quilting group and his quilting provides a portal to the past, a story of two escaped slaves seeking freedom in Ohio.
Making their way north from Virginia with nothing but their mother's quilts for a map, the boys hope to find a promised land where blacks can live as free men. Their story alternates with Toloki's, as the two narratives cast a new light on America in the twenty-first century and on an undiscovered legacy of the Underground Railroad.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:32 -0400)

"Toloki is a professional mourner who for years has traveled around his native South Africa grieving for the deaths of strangers. In Cion, he arrives for the first time in the United States in 2004, bewildered by the culture and fascinated by the strange family that takes him in as a guest. Toloki befriends the son, falls in love with the daughter, and learns from their mother a tradition of quilting that links her family to the escaped slaves who first settled the area. As Toloki's relationship with his host family deepens, he discovers in the quilts a portal to the story of their ancestors: the two boys, Nicodemus and Abednego, have escaped from a slave-breeding farm in Virginia and are making their way north to Ohio in search of freedom. Instead of a map, they have two intricate patchwork quilts, each sewn with coded clues that will lead them across the Ohio River to their future as free men." "The boys' story alternates with Toloki's own, and these parallel adventures cast a new light on America in the twenty-first century, and on an undiscovered legacy of the Civil War and the Underground Railroad."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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