Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A River Called Time-Mia Couto

A River Called Time
Mia Couto
Serpent’s Tail, Sep 2009, $15.95
ISBN: 9781846686719

In Mozambique, the family patriarch Dito Mariano is near death. His family already divided and spread across the civil war wracked nation is further split because he was the only one holding them together. Still they all make a pilgrimage to pay homage to Dito as they come to bury him and the obsolete past he represents.

His grandson Mariano is among those who have come to Nyumba-Kaye, his grandfather’s house named in two languages, for the funeral. Although he has been at school, he understands family tradition and hopes to reconcile the Northern and Southern sides of the family in honor of his ancestor. However, his Uncle Ultimio plans to convert Nyumba-Kaye into a luxury hotel although he knows his father would loathe the idea that he markets it to the family as development, but the whispers of the past including his grandfather tells Mariano the younger to save the family heritage from the ravages of the curse called progress.

This is an extremely complex family drama that brings to life Mozambique through the divided live and ironically dead members of the Mariano brood. There is no easy linear chronological order to the deep storyline as the grandfather and his grandson narrate the goings-on past and present in a realm where ancestors reside along with those souls who never made it out of the womb alive; each has a tale to tell through Dito who has one foot with them and one foot with his warring family that emulates the civil war that has ravaged the island nation. A RIVER CALLED TIME is a complicated and rightfully convoluted super look at a different culture.

Harriet Klausner

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