Kirkus Indie: Review of Bloodlines


Kirkus Indie Review

June 25, 2013:

From author Frankel (The Third Power), a novel about a family fractured by apartheid and a son who struggles to piece everything together.

Having left South Africa at a young age, Steven Green grew up in America under the cloud of a missing mother and a father who wouldn’t talk about her. It’s not until the death of Steven’s father that the complex tale of his mother, Michaela, unfolds. As a radical working against apartheid, Michaela suffered through various torments, including prison and public humiliation. Forced to leave behind her old identity and family, Michaela emerged as a covert figure in a notoriously violent period of South African history. Ever the committed radical, Michaela managed to not only survive but flourish under the incredible strains of her outlaw life. Steven, an adult and with a family of his own in the early 2000s, uncovers Michaela’s life via a series of writings authored by his father, Lenny, Michaela herself and Michaela’s Zulu lover, Mandla. The alternating narratives provide insight from three distinct individuals and their three distinct responses to the horrors of apartheid. Steven manages to accept his mother’s infidelity, and he eventually agrees to travel to South Africa to see what has become of the country he remembers so poorly. Though Steven and his descriptions can be bland (“Aside from the beauty and grandeur of the landscape, what struck me most was how much space there was, and how few people lived in it”), the majority of Michaela’s story can be fierce and thrilling. While her seemingly thoughtless infidelity and blatant privilege (she is the only daughter of a well-to-do dentist who happens to be just as radical as she) do not make her the most sympathetic of characters, her survival in a time of open fear and very real danger shed important light on a time period that often seems too absurdly backwards to be true. Occasional coincidences border on the melodramatic, but guarded checkpoints full of humorless Special Branch agents do not.

A worthwhile account of the anti-apartheid struggle.”

—Kirkus Indie Review