A South African debut that tracks six quirky characters, supposedly in search of romance, piles on the charm, magic and whimsy.
Cynical Meryl responds to niceness with blistering scorn; undertaker Pravesh senses death and likes to paint corpses’ toenails; Mdu can communicate with whales; Aisha is a loner with a life of ritual; Beth, who floats when happy, scares men away by falling in love too hard and fast; and garbage man Harry, who only eats green food, has a smell that attracts broken things and people. There are no easy pairings among this group of odd, damaged singletons whose story starts with a robbery at a grocery store during the hottest summer Durban has ever known. In a drifting social comedy with philosophical overtones, ideas of love are punctured repeatedly by depression, despair, bad smells and worse lovers. Beth and Pravesh’s relationship ends when he starts an affair with Meryl. Beth goes on to fame and fortune as a motivational speaker while Pravesh ends up the laughable fan of a pop princess. Mdu and Aisha experience a period of loving rapture until she leaves him, swimming out to sea, and he sails after her. Meryl and Harry become engaged despite her profound misgivings.
Strenuous efforts at lightness are impeded by an obtrusive authorial presence and an excess of eccentricity.