Poet Meira Cook Releases First Novel
South African born poet Méira Cook releases her much-anticipated first novel, The House on Sugarbush Road, a revealing story of post-apartheid Johannesburg and the intimate interconnectedness of the privileged upper class and people who serve them.
Cook knows what she’s writing about. Born in Johannesburg, she worked as a journalist there before coming to Canada in the early 90s. Her familiarity and affection for her homeland is obvious in every line, and once into the book, the reader feels like they’ve just been to market, to the city, to the dust-ravaged countryside of Cook’s South Africa.
The story is told through two families, a once prominent liberal Afrikaner family and the extended family of their long time domestic, Beauty Mapule. Not one of the characters in The House on Sugarbush Road escapes Cook’s sharp eye for the kind of flaws that make us all human.
The two women at the heart of the novel are Beauty Mapule, the domestic servant of the house on Sugarbush Road, and her mistress, Ouma, of the du Plessis family, the two of them bound mostly by time. Says Beauty of Ouma, “She was always calling (for) Beauty these days, disguising the request as a favour since both women knew that obedience was the river that had run dry between them; do this and do that only the bedrock against which habit grated like stones.”
Cook writes like a sensualist. In her Johannesburg, you can smell the street food as well as the burning tires; you can feel the hot soft dirt of the yard on your feet and hear the drone of insects and taxis, the shouts of the vendors, the honking of horns. Her characters are no less richly drawn, their clicking bracelets and sticky coughs, sweat-slicked flesh and curses, ring from the page.
Joan Thomas, author of Curiosity, says, “The beauty of the language, the author’s eye for moving and incongruous details, her understanding of the searing realities of post-apartheid South Africa—all are extraordinary. What Méira Cook especially grasps and explores with great delicacy are the ties that bind her characters together: a shared past, but also greed, need, and something approaching love.”
Méira Cook will launch The House on Sugarbush Road September 10 in Winnipeg.
For information on this book, and this author, contact Susie Moloney at Great Plains Publications, 204-475-6799.