If You Want to Make God Laugh
From the author of the beloved Hum if You Don't Know the Words comes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time, and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.
In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.
Across the country, wealthy socialite, Ruth, appears to have everything her heart desires, but it’s what she can’t have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a painful past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to lick their wounds, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.
As the mystery surrounding the infant's discovery grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?
“Lovely….Marais showcases her talent for pulling beauty from the pain of South African history with a strong story and wonderfully imperfect characters.”–Publishers Weekly
“A moving portrait of the choices women can make–and the ones we can’t. Beautifully crafted and powerfully drawn, this book had me in tears.”–Jill Santopolo, bestselling author of The Light We Lost and More Than Words
“Told with meticulous detail and compassion, If You Want to Make God Laugh is a portrait of a country in transition–and of three women at their own crossroads. Bianca Marais shines light on the injustices and barriers experienced by her characters without shying away from their complicated humanity. Over the course of this nuanced second novel, Zodwa, Ruth and Delilah consider what they owe to others–family, friends, country–and, just as importantly, what they have the right to seek themselves.”—Chloe Benjamin, bestselling author of The Immortalists and The Anatomy of Dreams
“A story of three remarkable women at crossroads in their own lives against the backdrop of South Africa at the moment of stunning transformation that will keep you reading late into the night. Marais deftly completes a writer’s hat trick, leaving you gutted, smiling through tears and soaring with hope.”-–Steven Rowley, bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor
“Bianca Marias’ gripping second novel twists and turns from one end of Johannesburg to the other….Hard to put down, emotionally riveting, and tackling tough subjects with grace, If You Want to Make God Laugh shows how the resilience of the human spirit can triumph over the most traumatic circumstances.” – Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone and The Confusion of Languages
“You will absolutely love this book. You will. Why? Because Bianca Marais’s heart is immense and full of love. With unsparing insight into the human condition, she unspools a tale that is at once heartbreaking as it is merciful, validating our frailty while eulogizing our endless capacity for generosity and love. We all need the deep refuge of Bianca Marais’s exceptional voice.”--Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter and I Always Loved You
Read an excerpt:
Listen to Ruth's Theme,
as composed by Alex Steinwall:
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