Imperfect Places and People

Without really planning to, in April and May this year I read three books all set (primarily) in Africa. Through them I learnt things I’d never known, or most likely had forgotten. It was also interesting to note in all of them a strain of imperfection – imperfect places and imperfect characters.

The first, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, is set mostly in Ethiopia, an Ethiopia that faces revolution, civil war and a movement to liberate neighbouring Eritrea. The presence of multiple cultural influences in the book adds to its richness, Italian being one of those, since Italy occupied Ethiopia for a period. It is the political situation that leads to the American section of the book. One of the protagonists, Marion Stone, has to flee being wrongly accused of being part of the Liberation Movement. He heads for the Bronx, New York, where he works as a doctor. In a city so often lauded for its quality and status, New York is presented here in its imperfections. Compared to hospitals with more prestige, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour where Marion works, is underfunded and attracts a mix of foreign doctors. The inequity in modern-day America is highlighted, but is done so in a matter-of-fact way, which I appreciated. The earlier story contains a wonderfully detailed family life at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa, and for the full book we are treated to in-depth explanations of medical procedures. Although fascinating, the latter is a little heavy-handed. Still, it is described lyrically and forms the really intense parts of the story.

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann, actually starts in Ethiopia’s neighbouring country, the now-independent Eritrea. Sammy, a teenager who lives there, flees enforced conscription and makes for England. His journey as a refugee is harrowing and it is remarkable that he makes it as far as the English Channel. Here he has just one last body of water to swim across before reaching his goal, ‘the promised land’. At the same time, we read about Natalie, a teenager who lives in England. An England that is far from the ‘promised land’ of Sammy’s imagination. Natalie’s family is to be turfed out of their accommodation, her brother protests bitterly about ‘refugees coming in to take the locals’ jobs’, and Natalie grieves her late mother. It is the latter that spurs Natalie into swimming the channel to raise money for a refugee charity. In a series of coincidences Natalie and Sammy learn about each other and set out at the same time to ‘cross’ the English channel. The Crossing, aimed at Young Adults, is written in verse, in simple language, and with clever use of typography and concrete poetry. It was shortlisted in this year’s Carnegie Medal.

The Country of Others by Leila Slimani is set in Morocco in the 1950s when Morocco is still a French colony and then later rebels against its colonisers. The main characters are Amien and his wife Mathilde and their daughter Ayesha. Amien is Moroccan, Arabic and Black, while Mathilde is French, Catholic and White. They meet in France during WWII, when Amien is conscripted by the French to fight for them against the Germans. I found this interesting – how difficult must it have been to for Amien to fight for the coloniser to whom he did not really owe allegiance? I say ‘don’t really’ because a great deal of ambiguity is written into the characters. The relationship between Mathilde and Amien especially is reflective of the relationship between Morocco and France: at once in love and in hate. This relationship is likened in the book to the Lironge tree – an orange tree into which a lemon tree has been grafted. The result is an unpalatable fruit. Fittingly, Morocco itself is not portrayed as salubrious, unlike the delight I understand the tourist’s Morocco to be. The characters in The Country of Others are unlikable, a fact that only serves to underscore the ambiguity and to provide a good, thought-provoking read.

Individual in Form and Story

Something I frequently ponder is how to practically apply a faith in God to real life. The Beech Bank Girls – Every Girl Has a Story by Eleanor Watkins shows how this might be done. It naturally and simply portrays a real, relevant, caring and present God. This elevates an otherwise ordinary girls’ story set in England, to something more universal. The six girls in the tale have varying degrees of faith in their Christian God. From Annie, who hasn’t met him before, to Chloe who begins to doubt his faithfulness.

The form and plot of the book underscore God’s personal nature. The text is divided into six parts, one per character, with each part told in first-person. This lends the narration a diary-entry feel.

As per the title, the story itself is about girls, friends, each of whom has their own set of challenges. We meet Annie who has just moved homes because her parents are divorcing. Willow, a leader and faithful friend, who is tempted to put her love of designer clothing above her friendships. Rachel, who is aggrieved when her stepfather’s four children are forced to move in with Rachel and her family. Holly, who feels conflicted by the attentions of a good-looking soccer player. Amber, who can’t forgive her parents for failing to tell her they were going to euthanize the family dog. And Chloe who tries to hide her brother’s serious health challenges.

For all of these problems the friends turn to (or even away from) God. They pray together at school, attend a youth group at the ‘Beech Bank Club’, and reflect on him in private. God responds by hearing and acting on those prayers, revealing himself to be a God of relationship. An attentive God who strengthens, teaches empathy, forgiveness and perspective, and who remains faithful in the face of faithlessness. The range of issues, from the childlike to the more serious, and the drawing of a God who responds so individually to prayers around those issues, gives this easy-to-read book a sense of importance.

The preparation of a surprise celebration by five of the girls for Chloe is a plot that runs in the background. In the different parts we see varying angles of the preparation, all leading up to the actual celebration and the book’s satisfying conclusion. Apart from a slightly rushed opening part, and the occasional adult voice breaking through the childlike narration, The Beech Bank Girls is a balanced, cleverly written story. I think I would have warmed to it as a youngster, and as an adult I look forward to reading the next three in Watkins’s series: Beech Bank Girls – Making a Difference, Beech Bank Girls – Christmas is Coming and The Beech Bank Girls – A Time Remembered. The books, suitable for ages 10 to 14, are available from Dernier Publishing (www.dernierpublishing.com). They can also be purchased on Amazon Kindle.

Perspective

I love children’s books with a message. Messages that grapple with weighty subjects. Subjects that are dealt with in ways that promote discussion and convey perspective. Even amongst young children. Two picture books shortlisted for this year’s Kate Greenaway medal do just that. They are Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson, and Drawn Across Borders by George Butler. Both books feature pictures that are formed either around the words, or as part of the words. That is, not separated by blank space or whole pages. I find this makes for more natural ‘reading’ of both words and pictures.

In Milo Imagines the World we meet a little boy travelling on a train with his sister. Milo feels like a ‘shook-up soda’ because of his mixed emotions of love, worry, excitement and confusion. We realise only at the end of the journey why Milo has these emotions: he is going to visit his mother who is in prison. Milo deals with these emotions by drawing the people he sees on the train, imagining them in their private worlds. On a couple of pages we even see Milo’s hand as it clutches the pencil while drawing in the notebook. But, after some time, Milo stops drawing and looks at his own reflection in the train window, wondering what people think when they look at his face. It is this perspective that prepares Milo to see that we simply cannot judge people by their appearance. Milo, and the reader by extension, learns compassion.

Drawn Across Borders is unique, certainly in my experience of children’s books. Its author, George Butler, is a reportage illustrator who covers stories of migration. In the book Butler explains some of his pictures and his experience of drawing them. His words are aimed at children or young adults, and his subjects often feature children: boys sifting through the rubble of their home, a girl smiling at him while she stands in a long queue for food, a boy lying on a hospital bed after having lost one leg in an explosion. It is these children, and otherwise ordinary people, upon whom Butler focuses, revealing what it is like to live as a refugee. The drawings in fine ink with splashes of water colour have an unfinished look about them, perhaps reflecting the impermanence of their subject matter. The people in the pictures come from 11 different countries, Syria, Kenya, Serbia, Lebanon and Iraqi Kurdistan among them. The people migrate for various reasons: work, war, urbanisation. Drawn Across Borders made me realise just how many people live shifting, insecure lives. I see afresh how very secure and stable is my own home life. The drawings, as opposed to photos, are appropriate for children to see. But I think a book like this is, is best read in collaboration with adults. It is worth exposing children to Drawn Across Borders because, like Milo in Milo Imagines the World, children may gain both compassion and perspective. I certainly did.

The Power of ‘Showing’ Stories

In June the 2022 YOTO Carnegie Greenaway Children’s Book award winners and readers’ choice were announced. The Carnegie winner was Katya Balen’s October, October, and the Greenaway readers’ choice was The Midnight Fair, a wordless picture ‘written’ by Gideon Sterer and illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio. It is interesting to note that a wordless book does in fact have a writer. Someone who develops the concept and the story with a plot and characters. For story The Midnight Fair truly is. In it a group of woodland animals – bears, deer, badgers, squirrels, foxes, hedgehogs and more – watch from a forest as trucks head across a field to set up a carnival fair. Later that evening the animals, under cover of darkness, watch the lights and humans and activity until the humans leave and the fairground watchman turns off the power. Then the animals emerge from the shadows, climb through the fence, switch the lights back on and proceed to have a marvellous time. They ride the roller coaster, cruise on the swings, zip around in giant teacups. They scoff popcorn and candy floss, toss rings over static swans and win prizes like giant teddies and goldfish in bags. Facial expressions and body positioning indicate moments of real character and obvious movement. Although the animals copy human children/parent actions, they also display their own special ways. Three small characters walk arm in arm, stuck together by a pretzel. And a hedgehog waddles by with licorice allsorts and other sweets stuck to its quills. It is fascinating that a wordless picture book can communicate humour, movement, and passage of time as it does. Readers will have no problem understanding the story. In fact, a wordless book may invite more discussion and interaction between parents and young children. The Midnight Fair is a delight, and an example of the worth of wordless books.

By contrast, October, October is a literary book aimed at middle grade readers. Whilst young readers like those of The Midnight Fair, and older readers in their teens, have lots of choice when it comes to books, the middle grade age group does not. So, it is significant to see this book winning the award. The protagonist is 11-year-old October who lives with her father off the grid in a forest. That is until her father is rushed to hospital after an horrific accident. October must then go to live with her hated mother in London where there is little in the way of a natural environment. And she must attend school for the first time. The story weaves in several threads, many, though not all of which, are tied up at the end. The open-endedness of certain aspects is a theme of the book. A brave and perhaps unusual one for this age group, but one I feel is important. Because life simply is not a neat and tidy affair at any age. Apart from the characterisation and the multilayered yet easy-to-understand text, what I most appreciated about Balen’s writing was her careful attention to ‘show don’t tell’. Writing courses urge writers to craft stories using ‘show’ – actions, dialogue, body language – rather than ‘tell’ – wordy descriptions. Balen does this throughout, resulting in an immersive reading experience in which the reader lives the tale and enters the character’s head. To some degree, as a result, October’s experience with a wild owl, her befriending of a boy at school, forgiveness of her mother, grieving for her injured father, and more, are like The Midnight Fair’s evocation of a clear and emotive story.

These two books, obviously loved by young readers, will be appreciated by adults and writers of children’s book. A real pleasure.

Stories You Can Chew Over

Short stories can be clever. They often make comments on society and focus intensely on a moment in time. Because of their brevity they don’t have to tell the reader everything or tie up every loose end. This invites readers to think, to fill in the gaps. Despite these positives I have not always liked short stories. My exposure to them at school and in tertiary education was usually as a random collection, or as a once-off in a magazine. This made for bitty, unsatisfying reading – almost like watching a variety show, or eating fluffy popcorn when I needed a proper meal. So I was very pleased, recently, to have read two books that were written as a series of interconnected short stories. Although true to the short story style, each story in the books was linked by overarching themes and a main narrative arc. The result was an in-depth, wholesome reading meal.

The first, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, is an adult read set in the fictional town of Maine, USA, and usually featuring (whether closely or distantly) the character of Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a cantankerous woman who nevertheless has some wisdom, insight, love and faithfulness. Despite her many failings – nastiness to her husband, control and lack of understanding towards her son, and intolerance of others – the reader just cannot hate her. And by the book’s end she acknowledges her faults, thereby exhibiting growth and change. Each story in Olive Kitteridge describes different characters in an unhurried way, focusing on them as if through a magnifying glass. And together the stories dwell on the themes of ageing versus adult children, the search for meaning, vulnerability, acceptance, and extramarital affairs (or at least attractions that most of us, it seems, fall into). The latter is in no way seedy and is portrayed as simply an aspect of life. Eating/food is a constant, with one character suffering from anorexia, and Olive often being featured eating. Indeed, one of the most memorable and life-altering scenes of the book occurs after one night at a restaurant. Olive and her husband stop at a hospital on the way home to use the toilet and are taken hostage. More than the hostage drama itself, it is the hurtful things Olive and her husband say to each other, that cause the lasting damage. Although difficult subjects are dealt with in Olive Kitteridge, their treatment is not morose. It is beautiful.

The deliciously titled Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock also handles heavy subject matter in an engrossing and sometimes humorous way. It is a young adult novel on the shortlist for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022. Written in accessible language, it features teenage characters who invite reader sympathy as they deal with trauma. The main narrative arc here is one that involves child abduction and murder, while other subjects included are child molestation, gay relationships, and the power of nature in the form of biting cold and raging fires. The stories are set in small towns along the west coast of North America, from Alaska, to British Columbia to Washington. They feature main and secondary characters and, as the stories move along the coast, so each new story starts with a secondary character from the previous story who then becomes the focal point. Like a chain, snaking along the coast adding links as it goes.

Because of constant characters, bigger themes and plot lines I finished both Olive Kitteridge and Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town full and happy. But because of unexplained elements and clever titles, I was also left pondering, chewing over what this or that meant. The style of these books is a fabulous way to present short stories and I highly recommend them.

Slavery Past & Present: A review of Cane Warriors

In my last post I spoke about shadowing the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Award for children’s literature. Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatley is a Young Adult novel on the shortlist for the Carnegie section of this award. I began reading it on a recent road trip to Johannesburg, a part of South Africa in which I grew up. Images of my happy childhood flashed through my mind as we travelled: roads with no shoulder; steel window frames (that would rust in ten minutes in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal – KZN – I now call home); cold crisp night times; deciduous trees shedding barrow loads of autumn leaves; and brown grass that indicates a no-winter rainfall area. This latter is especially meaningful when considered against the terrible floods KZN experienced in April 2022. As I am writing this, access to municipal water is still in question in KZN after aqueducts and wastewater treatment plants were ripped apart in a matter of hours, cutting off water supply to thousands. After frightening and destructive political riots in the province nine months earlier, and job-shedding generally because of COVID lockdowns over the last two years, KZN indeed feels like a beleaguered province. Although hardly a paradise, Johannesburg felt like a good escape for me from the burdens of home. And I could be with friends and family for whom KZN’s issues were intangible. Unless you physically and geographically experience something, it can be easy to miss the gravity of it.

And I think the British slave trade of the 1700s that Wheatle speaks of in the afterword of Cane Warriors is a bit like that: if you weren’t a slave it is easy now to gloss over this dreadful time in history. What Wheatle does in Cane Warriors is to bring to life, for the uninitiated reader, this period in history in the form of a small battle. A battle in which a historical warrior named Tacky instigates a fierce uprising amongst some of the slaves in Jamaica. It’s interesting that instead of Tacky, for his protagonist Wheatle uses a young (presumably fictional) boy named Moa. Moa, at fourteen years of age, joins his special friend Keverton and a group of older men led by Tacky, in the focused killing of slave masters. They do this in an effort to free their fellow slaves and to set up homes and vocations for themselves. I really felt myself rooting for Moa and Keverton’s dreams of future families. But at the same time I dreaded what I knew must be the outcome: failure. And indeed this is what happens. Despite killing several landowners the rebellion is fairly quickly quashed and work on the cane plantations resumes.

What Moa has to do is way beyond what I would ever have been called on to do at fourteen: murder cruel white masters. Although quite gruesome, Wheatle’s narrative is not beyond a YA audience. He has created a young hero with whom the reader can empathise. And he has created for the YA audience an important text. One in which they will begin to appreciate the depths of what it must mean to be owned by another human being and used merely for the enormous financial gain of another. Whilst the narration of Cane Warriors is in plain English the dialogue is in Jamaican English dialect. I found this quite difficult to understand to begin with – as other readers might do – but I soon got into it. There are many instances of humour that the language elicits too, which makes it enjoyable. 

But more than bringing to life something from the hidden past, Wheatle’s Cane Warriors makes the subject of slavery relevant to today. His story, with characters the reader is drawn to, shows the important way fiction can speak to prevailing problems. And in the afterword Wheatle writes of his vociferous support for slave reparations now, and mentions Amnesty International’s current work against modern-day slavery. This further adds to the text’s relevance.

While in Johannesburg I continued to enjoy my reminiscing. But it didn’t take away from the problems that waited for me back home. The floods have changed our province and its people, and repair work must begin.

Shadowing Children’s Book Awards

Have you heard of ‘shadowing’ book awards? The Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards is an annual award that honours exceptional writing and illustration in books for children. Book reading groups can sign up on the website to ‘shadow’ the awards process. This involves choosing books from the longlist, and then the shortlist, reading and discussing the books, and then posting reviews on the site. The Carnegie section of the award is for superb writing, and is named after Andrew Carnegie, a nineteenth-century champion of libraries. The Kate Greenaway section awards outstanding illustration, and is named after a nineteenth-century artist known for her children’s illustrations. Whilst the shadowing process is aimed at young people, I belong to a shadowing group of adults who are interested in children’s literature. When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten is a Carnegie longlisted book we read recently.

When Life Gives You Mangoes is a beautifully told tale of friendship between children, the heartbreak of losing that friendship, and the difficulty of adjusting to life without them. Protagonist Clara lives in Sycamore in the formerly colonised Caribbean, an area prone to tropical storms, and good for fishing and surfing. Sycamore is a small village peopled with unique characters, like the grumpy Ms Gee, the dishonest and judgmental Pastor Brown, the new girl, Rudy, Clara’s outcast Uncle Eldorath, and snobby Gaynah, Clara’s best friend.

Clara and Gaynah fall out with each other and Clara teams up instead with Rudy, Ms Gee’s granddaughter who has recently arrived from England. Through childhood games like ‘pick leaf’ and ‘make believe’ it becomes apparent that Clara has suffered a trauma that has to do with the sea and which she can’t remember. A former budding surfer, Clara will now not go anywhere near the sea, much to her parents’ concern. Clara’s parents try to help her by taking her to the Bishop but this initiative fails. When Clara draws closer to her Uncle Eldorath she discovers that the two of them share a history of loss. Through their relationship Eldorath is restored to the community of which he was an outcast, and Clara remembers the event that has so changed her life. She is finally able to put the past to rest and renew her love of surfing and the sea.

Secrets abound in this novel and Kereen Getten constructs these carefully throughout, disclosing them all right near the end. They include broken relationships, death and the heart of community. This keeps the reader glued to the page. Each character is unique and well-drawn, and the friendship highs and lows between Clara, Gaynah and Rudy so age appropriate. Clara’s parents are depicted as ordinary, loving, concerned parents and Clara’s bond with them is touching, particularly with that of her father. The challenges experienced through island living and destructive tropical storms create an authentic setting, especially as they relate to small communities.

When Life Gives you Mangoes is an excellent book for middle grade readers, detailing the small issues of friendships and relationships that mean everything to children at this age. It also gently covers the heartbreaking subject of what it is to lose a best friend to death, and the process required in coming to terms with that. I was pleased to have been part of shadowing this beautiful book. I highly recommend it.

Mosley – A Value-Driven, Different Tale

Mosley is an unusual and gently told animated film aimed at children. The story revolves around an intelligent, talking species called thoriphants who look a bit like elephants but with pointed ears, tusks and no trunk. They are enslaved by humans who give the thoriphants no credit for their intelligence and dignity. Through one particular thoriphant – Mosley – and his family, we see how the species longs to be able to walk upright and have fingers, as their ancestors did. The adventure sees Mosely rising up to defend his family from the humans, searching for his long-lost ancestors, and breaking free of his bonds.

An adult might easily see in Mosley a picture of human slavery and the denigration of one people group by another. Even young children will at least recognise elements of unfairness, cruelty and oppression. Whether slavery, or simple prejudice, the representation in Mosley could make for a good discussion between adults and children on the subjects of injustice and worthwhile values.

Mosley is unusual in its use of Christian/biblical images. Mosley’s search for his ancestors takes him back to an Eden-like place, where we see in stylistic form images of the fruit and tree of life, and a force (God?) outside of Mosley who helps Mosley in his hour of greatest need. This idea of faith in a higher being as opposed to faith simply within oneself contrasts with that in typical Disney films which usually feature the latter. For example, when told to ‘believe inside his heart’, Rue, Mosley’s little son, says ‘but it can’t just be in my heart, it must be real’.

But more than a journey of faith, Mosley gives us images of cave paintings, ancient warriors, lost cities in the jungle, extinction and de-extinction. These trouble the film, preventing it from being too simplistic. Even these elements are further complicated when we see that the thoriphant ancestors seem to be more advanced than the thoriphants who came after them.

In many American films the baddies speak with an English accent, the goodies with an American one. In Mosley this trend is reversed. Of course, this observation is primed when the viewer sees at the start of the movie that Mosley is a New Zealand/Chinese production, rather than the ubiquitous American one. Parents, take your children to see Mosley. It is well worth it for its difference and important values. Mosley opens in South African cinemas today, 31 January 2020.

Image: from Mosley Facebook page.

Noddy Comes to (My) Life

One of my earliest memories of books was Noddy Goes to Toyland and Noddy and his Car by Enid Blyton. These were borrowed from the library on several of my family’s fortnightly evening visits there. Too impatient to wait until we got home to read them, I would snatch looks at the pages each time my father’s car drove past a streetlight.

 

Noddy buys a build-it-yourself house with Big Ears’ help

Who wouldn’t want a ‘dear little house’ like this one?

When it came to daytime playtime my enthusiastic reading of Noddy became part of my life. I had been struck, you see, by the ease in Noddy Goes to Toyland with which Noddy moved into Toyland and built a house. I think I also fancied the idea that Noddy had run away from his previous home in search of independence. This independence was especially evident when Noddy hired himself out as a taxi driver in Noddy and his Car. Live by yourself in a dear little house! Earn money by working! Oh yes, this was going to be the life for me. And so I travelled around our suburban streets on my tricycle (which had a passenger seat), pretending I was Noddy in his car. And I moved things around in my bedroom to simulate Noddy’s own house.

 

 

 

But not being able to pipe running water into my own bedroom flummoxed me, and using a basin of water would not have been sustainable. Unlike Noddy, who turned to Big Ears to help him problem-solve issues with his unhappy car passengers, I didn’t ask anyone for help solving my water crisis. Thus ended my pursuit of complete independence. Real life was not so simple after all.

Noddy’s ‘bathroom’

Noddy’s delightful car

Noddy was a wooden toy, though, a toy, who, somewhat reminiscent of Pinnochio, had been carved by a carpenter. Unlike Pinnochio, who wanted to be a real boy, Noddy wanted to remain a toy. Likewise, I like to think that – even as a child of four or five – I knew that none of Noddy and his lifestyle was or could be real. Noddy was a toy after all and his and my forays into games were just that – games. I simply, and willingly, entered into a ‘contract of make believe’ with my books.

 

 

Admiring Boldness

Revolting Rhymes is a splendid rewrite by Roald Dahl of seven well-known fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Dahl not only retells the stories with modern (the book was published in 1982) language and characters. He also infuses the tales with his own moral message. So, Cinderella advocates that marriage be underscored by decency, rather than princedom and money; and Jack and the Beanstalk says that daily bathing has its rewards!

Adults will be highly amused by the twist on Little Red Riding Hood who ‘whipped a pistol from her knickers’ and shot the wolf. The hooded maiden also appears in the Three Little Pigs where she helps the pigs overcome the wolf and, er, overcomes the third little pig too.

I don’t pretend to have done an academic study of Roald Dahl’s work. But on first glance at these clever, hilarious tales I do wonder if Revolting Rhymes may be viewed today as ‘politically incorrect’. And in a way I admire them for that. I appreciate them for their difference, their astuteness, and their boldness in today’s politically correct world.

I also respect the latest theatre release, Overcomer, for its boldness. Overcomer follows the story of young teen, Hannah Scott, whose life is changed when she takes up cross country running at her school. Through her running coach, John Harrison, Hannah meets the father (Thomas Hill) she never knew, excels at something for the first time in her life (running), and becomes certain of who she is.

But what I admire most about the movie is its clearly Christian message. The script of Overcomer doesn’t just proffer gentle, politically correct ‘message marketing’. It resolutely champions the Christian belief of repentance, redemption and forgiveness.

There is lots wrong with this film. It’s overly sentimental and dramatic, and confuses success with salvation. Nevertheless, I applaud it for its unequivocal focus on Jesus Christ and Christian new birth. And that in a world that is so politically correct that many messages are diluted so as not to be offensive.

Overcomer opens at cinemas in South Africa today 30 August 2019.