“A taut, visceral account of a young Jewish boy’s African life . . . offering at times page-turning thrills and at others a painful meditation on destiny and volition.” — NPR, All Things Considered
A powerful family saga, The Lion Seeker is a thrilling ride through the life of Isaac Helger, from redheaded hooligan on the streets of Johannesburg to striving young man on the make. Growing up in the shadow of World War II, Isaac is caught between his mother’s urgent ambition to bring her sisters to safety out of the old world and his own desire for the freedoms of the new. But soon his mother’s carefully guarded secret takes them to the diamond mines, where mysteries are unveiled in the desert rocks and Isaac begins to learn the bittersweet reality of success bought at truly any cost.
“[A] master storyteller . . . Bonert’s zest for description, his attention to social nuances, and his eagerness to tell a large story in a large way . . . [creates] a big, richly detailed novel.” — Tablet Magazine
“Raw and ambitious.” — Moment
“Astonishingly mature, admirably incautious . . . It’s visually and thematically sweeping, rich with diverse personalities, packed with tender waves and roiling crests of love, loss, hope, hatred.” — National Post (Canada)
“Stunning.” — Jewish Daily Forward
“Powerful and thoroughly engrossing . . . To read it is to be reminded how great a great novel can be.” — David Bezmozgis, author of The Free World
A Stupid or a Clever, a lion or a lamb : this refrain follows Isaac Helger as he comes of age in South Africa in the 20s and 30s. Both of Isaac s immigrant Jewish parents suffered in anti-Semitic Europe, but they ve learned opposite lessons from their respective ordeals. His iron-willed, mysteriously scarred mother teaches him to put himself first, to take rather than give because if given the chance, anyone else would do the same. But his father favors a life of peaceful labor, preferring happiness to materialism. Which legacy will Isaac choose as he tries to strike it rich, woo an upper-class goy girl, and retaliate against anti-Semites? Bonert s minorities are not blameless victims: unable to see the similarity between the persecution of Jews and blacks, Isaac is a bigot, too. When Hitler s onslaught begins, endangering the Helgers Lithuanian relatives, Isaac must decide which comes first: his own dreams or the lives of others. His is a story of fighting and deciding what s worth fighting for, of cultivating a strength that doesn t erase empathy. Bonert s debut is lengthy, but the pages turn quickly, with suspenseful prose and colorful vernacular dialogue that could easily be used in a blockbuster film.