Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help , a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy. Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred...until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin's parents are left dead and Beauty's daughter goes missing. After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection. Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.
"An important contribution to literature about racism in South Africa...it's a powerful story and one with a perspective many of us haven't read."-Terry McMillan, New York Times bestselling author of Waiting to Exhale and I Almost Forgot About You "Bianca Marais's compassionate debut paints a picture of the alternately beautiful and tragic strategies we humans employ to meet our needs for love. Hum If You Don't Know the Words takes us into the human heart's wiliness as it attempts to survive the frontal attack of racism. While the attack is a sin, the response is wondrous and wounding and an illustration of the resiliency that can transcend the color of a person's skin."-Rebecca Wells, author of The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood "Bianca Marais's stunning debut offers an evocative and thought-provoking look at the unlikely relationship between two South Africans. Set against a backdrop of apartheid-era South Africa, Marais illuminates the experiences of both black and white South Africans during one of the bloodiest periods in the country's history and gives us an emotionally powerful and historically important story about forgiveness, love and redemption."-Tara Conklin, author of The House Girl "Bianca Marais's compelling debut novel is a heartrending coming-of-age tale that not only illuminates the horrors of apartheid South Africa but also speaks with unmistakable relevance to the racism of our own times."-Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and Fates and Traitors "Radiant...a stirring ode to a country's painful maturation." - O, The Oprah Magazine "Richly drawn...[The characters'] journeys and eventual love poignantly demonstrate that nothing is simply black or white." - USA Today "In this standout debut Marais handles topics such as grief and racism with a delicate intensity that will make readers fall in love with her characters. From the first few heartfelt chapters to a fast-paced and heart-wrenching ending, Marais has created a stunning historical drama that shouldn't be missed."- Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Lyrical...A captivating story about finding family in unexpected places and maintaining culture in the face of adversity."- Library Journal (starred review) "Bianca Marais' new novel, which was inspired by her own life, will sweep you up and not let you go until the final page."-Bookish.com, Must Read Summer Books of 2017 "A satisfying emotional journey."- Kirkus Reviews "A deeply compelling story of love, loss, racism, sacrifice, and family." -- Hello Giggles "Breathtaking...Intense, powerful and moving, Hum If You Don't Know the Words is an exalting anthem of love, family and humanity."- Shelf Awareness "With its vivid, emotional scene-setting, alternating narration and tense plotting, this novel is a thoughtful, compelling page-turner." - Goodhousekeeping.com "[Marais] brings her homeland to life with compelling descriptions of both city and rural life and the great divide that separated people during the apartheid era." - Cedar Rapids Gazette One of Real Simple 's Best New Books to Read This Month Chosen as one of Library Journal 's Writers To Watch and New York Post 's Required Reading "Beautiful and tragic, intimate and sweeping, Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a gorgeous debut novel. You don't read this story, you live it. Bianca Marais creates characters with such love and compassion they nearly walk off the page."-Tish Cohen, bestselling author of Town House and The Truth About Delilah Blue "I read this book in a gallop, compelled to discover the intertwined fates of its tragic heroine, Beauty Mbali, and her young orphaned charge. Hum If You Don't Know the Words is an exciting and compassionate novel about a period of devastating cruelty in South African history. With passion and grace Marais makes the political personal and the personal intimate."-Meira Cook, author of Nightw