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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

THE GOOD HUSBAND OF ZEBRA DRIVE--another #1 Ladies Detective Agency triumph!

I finally got back to Precious Ramotswe and Alexander McCall Smith’s #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and I was not disappointed. But here I am at the last novel, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, and I am saddened that it’s all over—at least for the time being.

I love these characters. Precious has been constant throughout the series, a base for the other characters as they grow.

Her marriage to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is progressing nicely, and in this novel their relationship is even put to a kind of test. Sorry, I can’t give you hints. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni also has what might be called a mid-life crisis or, at least, a moment where he pauses and questions himself.

Mma Makutsi has not yet married, but her character has taken a turn. Coming from her small village and being educated at the Botswana Secretarial College and then making her own way in life, she has emerged as a strong woman, opinionated and sometimes unattractively domineering. She’s the character who has come to believe her own press, and the result is arrogance. She has something to learn. Life is more than the shoes you are able to buy.

Even the apprentices are growing, and Charlie wants to strike out of his own. Throughout the earlier novels, Charlie’s character emerges as it is seen through the eyes of Precious Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. In The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, Charlie comes into his own. We learn about him through his own actions.

Oh yes, the #1 Ladies Detective Agency takes on some interesting cases, and once again we see them solved with intelligence and compassion. Through these cases, sometimes more than through any other source, do we see the qualities in our heroine that no doubt have propelled this series to such prominence.

“The world, Mma Ramotswe believed, was composed of big things and small things. The big things were written large, and one could not but be aware of them—wars, oppression, the familiar theft by the rich and the strong of those simple things that the poor needed, those scraps which would make their life more bearable; this happened, and could make even the reading of a newspaper an exercise in sorrow. There were all those unkindnesses, palpable, daily, so easily avoidable; but one could not think just of those, thought Mma Ramotswe, or one would spend one’s time in tears—and the unkindnesses would continue. So the small things came into their own: small acts of helping others, if one could; small ways of making one’s own life better; acts of love, acts of tea, acts of laughter. Clever people might laugh at such simplicity, but, she asked herself, what was their own solution?”

I sincerely hope that Alexander McCall Smith has not given up on Precious and her friends because there is so much more to learn about them.

“That engine I’ve been working on will run so sweetly,” he [Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni] remarked as he poured his tea.
“Like life,” she said.

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