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But not only is Karoo Boy finely written; it is also recounted by a true storyteller who gets more than one tremoring tale of love and death to bloom in his desert landscape. Troy Blacklaws was born in in South Africa, where he grew up. After studying English at Rhodes University, he spent two years in the army. He now teaches at the Singapore American School. The novel is to be filmed in South Africa. Visit www. From debut novelist Troy Blacklaws-born and raised in South Africa, now living in Europe- comes a striking, exceptionally well-rendered coming-of-age tale that is both exotic and familiar, funny and sad, political and personal, urban and rural.

Set amid the cities, bush towns, and countryside of South Africa circa just when apartheid had started to unravel-Karoo Boy is as moving as it is memorable.

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As the novel begins, fourteen-year-old Douglas Thomas and his twin brother Marsden live and surf happily in the Muizenberg section of Cape Town with their parents. But after Marsden dies in a freak cricket-match accident, Douglas and his mother, along with their maid and the family dog, pack up and move to the bush town of Klipdorp in South Africa's remote Karoo region. His father, meanwhile, has disappeared, and Douglas enters adolescence all the more alienated, uncertain, and lost: His brother is dead; his father is missing; he is many miles from the ocean, has no friends, and does not fit in at school.


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Although friendly and articulate, he is a stranger in a strange land. Life in the South African bush, as Douglas comes to learn, is marked by bleak landscapes, harsh customs, everyday violence, and-due to the climate of apartheid, -severe and constant racial tensions.


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Danger hangs in the dry air like dust; it covers all things, touches all souls. But there is still hope for Douglas in the presence of Marika, the earthy and adventuresome girl who immediately takes a liking to him, and Moses, the old man who works at a local gas station and-like Douglas-dreams of one day escaping to the seaside and driving to Cape Town. Reflective, engaging, palpable, and genuine-and musically and colorfully told-Karoo Boy is that rare book about growing up that speaks directly and uniquely to readers of all ages.

As one critic has noted, acknowledging the book's ultravivid prose style: "The story is in the details in this first novel: the exquisite sense of place, the tender intimacy, and the casual cruelty, from murder to being forced to use separate utensils" Booklist. Book reviewers have been quick to acclaim this novel's vivid language-descriptive, poetic, rhetorical, and otherwise. But what about its rich use of South African vocabulary? What words did you learn in reading this book? Define the following: braai, dumpie, bakkie, skollie, kaffir, dagga, khaya, moffie, dominee, songololo, tokoloshe, Jo'burg, and assegai.

The events of Karoo Boy are set in motion by a freak accident. How does this tragic mishap also trigger the narrative's crucial theme of fate or destiny -as well as its equally prominent theme of exile including self-exile? Reflect on the social dimensions depicted in Karoo Boy. What differences and distinctions exist for people of different races or skin colors? Do these divisions change when the story moves from the city to the country?

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How does this change Douglas's when he leaves Cape Town for Klipdorp? Animals play an important part in this narrative, from pets and insects to lizards and sea creatures to wild beasts and biology-class rabbits.

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Where-and why-are the various animals in Karoo Boy described or treated as human beings? After moving to Klipdorp, Douglas unpacks a suitcase full of books in his new bedroom. Doing so, he comes across his father's old copy of The Outsider by Albert Camus. Explain the notes that the boy's father has written in its margins.

Karoo Boy: A novel

More than once during the narrative, Douglas looks at his reflection and sees not himself but the face of his dead twin brother. Discuss Karoo Boy as a meditation on identity, as a story about what comprises a person, and as an exploration of selfhood-and, for that matter, of twinhood. In the "Bad Magic" chapter, Moses says to Douglas: "Years later, I saw that it was not the dog that was evil, but the man who taught the dog to hate.

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Karoo Boy by Troy Blacklaws

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