An award-winning nonfiction writer’s account of the memorable year he spent living in the South African kingdom of Lesotho.
When McGrath’s cultural anthropologist wife, Ellen, suggested they move to Lesotho, a landlocked nation with the “second highest HIV prevalence rate on the planet,” he had no idea what Lesotho was or where it was located. Nevertheless, he embraced Ellen’s idea, and the pair soon moved to a remote eastern district of the country called Mokhotlong. While his wife researched “how families were adapting to the AIDS crisis,” the author took a job as a high school teacher. He soon befriended many of the district’s interesting inhabitants, including Nthabeleng, a 4-foot “tiny dynamo” of a woman who “sees all, hears all, knows all,” and Limpho, the beloved “hog-butchering librarian” who left Mokhotlong one day to quietly die in a hospital. A keen student of human behavior, McGrath took particular delight in observing the behaviors of the Basotho people. Total strangers held hands, people stared openly at foreigners out of curiosity and interest, and women nursed babies without shame in public. For one cycle of seasons following their arrival, the author and his wife immersed themselves in Basotho culture. In spring, they came as newcomers to a ruggedly beautiful, high-altitude land. By summer, they partook of community celebrations that included a pig-killing feast. That fall, they marveled at dinosaur prints left in ancient rock and witnessed how AIDS was leaving its own mark on the population, all while contemplating their new lives. They left in winter, forever changed by their experiences, with a profound connection to a place that had become their second home. Subtle, witty, and well-observed, McGrath’s narrative is a chronicle of spiritual growth and a memorable love letter to the remote African kingdom that stole his heart.
A warmly humane memoir.