In this extraordinary debut novel reminiscent of The Lovely Bones and Little Bee, a mother watches from the afterlife as her teenage daughter recovers amidst the startling dysfunction of her extended family.
A small, bright thread of a story weaves out from the moment of my passing and seems to tether me to this place. Perhaps this is why I have not left yet. Perhaps I have no choice but to follow the story to its end.
Black Dog Summer begins with a murder, a farmstead massacre, in the South African bush. Thirty-eight-year-old Sally is but one of the victims. Her life brutally cut short, she narrates from her vantage point in the afterlife and watches as her sister, Adele, her brother-in-law and unrequited love Liam, her niece Bryony, and her teenage daughter, Gigi, begin to make sense of the tragedy.
A suspenseful drama focusing on marriage and fidelity, sisterhood, and the fractious bond between mothers and daughters, Black Dog Summer asks: In the wake of tragedy, where does all that dark energy linger? The youngest characters, Bryony and Gigi, cousins who are now brought together after Sally’s murder, are forced into sharing a bedroom. Bryony becomes confused and frightened by the violent energy stirred up and awakened by the massacre, while Gigi is unable to see beyond her deep grief and guilt. But they are not the only ones aware of the lurking darkness. Next door lives Lesedi, a reluctant witch doctor who hides her mystical connection with the dead.
As Gigi finally begins to emerge from her grief, she receives some shattering news, and in a mistaken effort to protect her cousin, puts Bryony’s life in imminent danger. Now Sally must find a way to prevent her daughter from making a mistake that could destroy the lives of all who are left behind.
Gorgeously written, with a pace that will leave readers breathless, Black Dog Summer introduces a brilliant new voice in fiction.
Sherry's debut is an evocative coming-of-age story in the vein of The Lovely Bones set in modern-day South Africa. Violence erupts on an ordinary morning at a remote communal farm, killing narrator Sally (known since childhood as Monkey for her "long, too skinny fingers"). Three days of "not being Sally anymore," yet "still here," she begins to understand that the din she hears as she navigates high above ground are "Africa's stories being told"; like hers, many are "full of violence and blood and fury." Through her 11-year-old niece, Bryony, Sally finds a way to follow her traumatized teenage daughter, Gigi, who fails to adjust to her new circumstances in Johannesburg with a family she hardly knows. Sally follows as her estranged sister, Adele, and husband, Liam, each cope with their grief and regret, and with the difficulty of incorporating Gigi into their tense home life. As the family aches, Bryony meets her intriguing neighbor Lesedi, a sangoma (healer) who senses that Bryony is in danger. The story is a familiar portrait of a family with secrets and the unavoidable loss of innocence that accompanies tragedy. Sherry's sense of pacing moving back and forth from the present to Sally's childhood and time on the farm and her keen ear for dialogue make for a good read.