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Hum If You Don't Know the Words

Length: 14 hrs and 25 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Perfect for fans of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a 10-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred...until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin's parents are left dead and Beauty's daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

Told through Beauty's and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

©2017 Bianca Marais (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Radiant...a stirring ode to a country’s painful maturation.” (O, The Oprah Magazine)

“Richly drawn...[The characters’] journeys and eventual love poignantly demonstrate that nothing is simply black or white.” (USA Today)

“In this standout debut Marais handles topics such as grief and racism with a delicate intensity that will make readers fall in love with her characters. From the first few heartfelt chapters to a fast-paced and heart-wrenching ending, Marais has created a stunning historical drama that shouldn’t be missed.” (Publishers Weekly

What listeners say about Hum If You Don't Know the Words

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Fabulous

Amazing read, from a place and era I grew up in. It made me reflect on my life and upbringing. Really looking forward to the next one.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

Wonderful story of a young white girl and a black woman whose lives become entwined after the Soweto riots of the 1970s. Both narrators do a great job of bringing the main characters to life. I laughed and cried and fell in love with both characters. Highly recommend and keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel. 😊

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  • Julie W. Capell
  • 29-01-2018

Two narrators make for a great listen

Great audiobook, using two different narrators to represent the two main characters. Being able to hear the story in the alternating voices of the Black African mother, Beauty, who is searching for her daughter, and that of the White African girl, Robin, who has lost her family, made this an extra-special experience. The ending was perfect. I look forward to the next book written by Bianca Marais.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Cimoreka
  • 23-08-2017

It is just a bit not believable

The story starts fine. Beauty's story is believable but as far as Robin, the 10 year old, she just has thoughts and does things that an adult reader will find hard to buy into. It seems like it is more an adventure/spy novel for a tween/teen than a serious adult novel about apartheid.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Asher Pelley
  • 13-07-2020

Wonderful.

Simply Brilliant story. Loved the dichotomy or Beauty and Robins stories. Plus the performances are captivating. A must listen to!

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  • KP
  • 14-06-2020

Starts a little slow but worth the wait!!

Historical fiction set during apartheid in South Africa at the time of the Soweto uprising (1976), told through two very different lenses from two excellent narrators. After a bit of a slow start, the story developed to be quite absorbing, as well as disturbing. Makes me want to read more about the history.

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  • MendoGirl
  • 24-05-2020

So beautiful and well read.

A moving story of love, strength and courage. The narrators were excellent. Enjoyed every minute.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 25-04-2020

The Nature Of Love

I listened to If You Want to Make God Laugh and loved it so much, I decided to give this a try. I wasn't as immediately engrossed in this one as I was the other, but then I was. The last chapter almost had me in tears. What a wonderful story of how love can transform and change the heart. Can't wait for the next one.

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  • nbaile17
  • 14-09-2019

Heartbreakingly beautiful

This book, is a true MUST READ!
It is an original story that paints vivid pictures and forces you to question your own integrity towards people of color.

I love, love, love this book.

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  • Aunt Patty
  • 03-03-2019

EXTRAORDINARY!

This book is a wonderful story about a very disturbing subject. The narrators were spectacular. When the character of Beauty tries to explain her grief over losing her husband to 10 year old Robin, her explanation was so insightful, and touched so closely upon my own grief experience over losing my own husband, that I re-listened and transcribed it so I could easily read it at any time. I have read a lot about grief, but Beauty summed it up like no one else I have heard yet. The ending told the reader they would be hearing more about the characters, so I am anxiously awaiting the sequel.

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  • Heather
  • 01-03-2019

Spectacular, superb, beautiful...

As a bereaved mother this book wrapped itself around my soul like a warm embrace. The way the author portrays grief is like none other, she was able to put into words the deepest emotions that I cannot find them for. The girl in the story reminded me of myself at that age, discovering racism as I morphed into the real world from my shelted imaginary one of teddy bears and tea parties. This is the best book so far on Audible that I'vve purchased. It's one of those books you feel something in your world has shifted when you finish it .

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  • cheryl C. Valente
  • 19-09-2018

Hum

Deeply moving story of life under apartheid, and a brave young girl’s coming of age.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-04-2020

Captivating Story

I am in love with Bianca Marais' writing style. Pronunciation of Xhosa wasn't good though.

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  • Cedric
  • 28-08-2017

Astonishing

This book is captivating and tells a very gripping story about SA's troubled past and what is still struggles with in the present!