Did I ever tell you about my fondness for aftermath? Stories about aftermaths are all I long for, all I worship and adore. In fact when I finish writing this post I might just go read the bit about the Scouring of the Shire. Repercussions is about aftermath, and it’s about a thing I don’t get nearly enough of in contemporary adult fiction, which is good people who are trying their best.
Henry Wegland is a Lithuanian Jew whose family came to South Africa years ago in the assumption that they would find a better way of life. Henry has become a minor activist for the ANC, meeting with the party regularly and occasionally assisting in acts of political violence. After one such failed attempt, he’s forced to leave the country. Many years later, his grandson Saul returns to South Africa and learns about his grandfather’s life there, and all that he left behind.
Repercussions is about fighting apartheid, with parallels to the Resistance in Europe during World War II, but more than that, it’s about the lasting effects of such a fight on the families of the fighters. What is the right thing, when you have a wife and small son? To stand with those who fight against racial tyranny, or to promise safety and stability for your family? And if you choose one, is there a way ever to go back? For a book that seems to be about a specific moment in history, Repercussions is wonderfully universal in its depiction of family relationships and what we owe to those we love.
Anthony Schneider is doing a tricky thing here with multiple narratives: the Henry of the past, trying to find the right thing morally for his family and his country; the Henry of present-day New York, negotiating a contentious, though loving, relationship with his adult son Glenn; and Henry’s grandson, Saul, traveling to South Africa to meet people whose lives once touched his grandfather’s and have now become so far distant. Saul’s storyline feels a little disconnected, but Schneider wonderfully evokes his adolescent uncertainty in a country he barely knows that is nonetheless his home.
Y’all, I have been reading some excellent African fiction this year, and absolutely no histories of African countries. Is it always or? Is it never and? I am falling behind! At this rate, I will never know everything!