From the author
Pulani is my African name which means “rain” and if you go further into the meaning it means happiness because the crops are growing. The name was given to me by Evelyn, our beloved cook but Pulani, the story, is more than just the crops growing.
It is the story of my grandfather and his brother who at ages 11 and 9 were thrust onto a ship by their desperate mother with just the clothes on their back and three bags of gold. It was a time during the Lebanese wars and Beirut was demanding young boys into the army. Desperate to save her sons from the gunfire in the town my great grandmother asked a sailor to hide her two boys on the ship and take them to an address in South Africa. Never mind that the ship was set for America and not South Africa.
It is the story of a childhood in a household that was more than my parents and siblings. It was the families of the 12 staff that were intertwined indelibly into our souls. If we had a birthday party we kept two presents and shared the rest with the children of the staff. If one of the staff was caught without their pass book or were about to give birth or nurse a child that was ill it was Mother who rescued them from jail, the townships the hospitals and anywhere she was not legally supposed to be.
It is the story of my maternal grandmother Gussie, a Jewish orphan who married my Lebanese grandfather, who together with Evelyn placated my hysterical Mother the day I told her that I was pregnant and the father was an Afrikaner. I was 17 and my life was supposed to continue in Switzerland at a finishing school. It is the love story between the tall, handsome and wickedly sensual Afrikaner and an English schoolgirl.
It is the story of a young woman’s journey in marriage as she faces numerous challenges, some dangerous, some heartbreaking and some ludicrous if you happened to be the fly on the wall.
And finally it is the story of the family as they tearfully pack their four suitcases to escape to America.
That is the story of Pulani. A story set against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa with excerpts of the political history at the beginning each chapter.
A story from the other side.
I was introduced to this book through my book club. This book is why i feel book clubs are so important because they introduce the reader to experiences they may not find on their own. I found the imagery in this book wonderful. I felt a real kinship to the author having been through my youth at the same time. I learnt so much about south africa and that period in history and how people were affected by it. This book is lyrical poetic and a suprising find for the hungry mind. The language is elegant yet straightfoward and realistic. I really enjoyed this read.
I absolutely love this book! As a South African now living in the United States I could identify with the author’s experiences of growing up in South Africa during the time of major changes in the political landscape. What a beautiful love story filled with suspense, sadness and joy. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who would like to get a different and more balanced perspective on a complex land with passionate people striving to live together in harmony.
South Africa is very different to other countries with regard to political, cultural and racial groups.
Through the story of her early life, Ruchel describes the beauty of South Africa, living in many cities with their various qualities, and the changes that made her family leave quickly.
I have lived in or visited many of these cities. Her descriptions form pictures in my mind.
If you want to try and understand this African country, you should read this book.
You won’t put it down.