My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time for another visit with my friend Precious Ramotswe. Time spent with her always makes me feel as if I am walking in sunshine.
Mma Ramotswe/Alexander McCall Smith has a particularly generous and benevolent view of human nature. Slow to condemn even the most seemingly egregious behavior, Precious always looks for that kernel of goodness in every human being with whom she comes in contact. This is remarkable because she is the proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana - the only detective agency in Botswana - and that profession often brings her in contact with some rather shady characters.
Precious Ramotswe has never had a holiday, but in The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, the people who love her are conspiring to convince her that it is time she took one. Chief among the conspirators is her assistant Grace Makutsi who is eager to be in sole charge of the detective agency while Precious is away.
Mma Ramotswe is unconvinced that she needs a holiday. She's not sure what she would do on one, but inevitably she is persuaded and begins a two-week vacation.
It's more of a staycation. She spends her time at home tidying her cupboards and closets, but that only takes her so far and soon she is bored.
On a shopping trip in town, she has an encounter with a young boy who tries to get her to pay him protection money to guard her van. She refuses and when she comes out she finds that her beloved tiny white van has a new and ugly scratch on its side. She confronts the little boy and dresses him down, threatening to spank him, but soon her heart is overflowing with sympathy as she realizes the young child is on his own and only trying to survive. Anyone who knows Precious can guess how this is going to end.
Moreover, things seem to be heating up at the detective agency in her absence. A part-timer who had been hired to help out while she was on holiday contacts Mma Ramotswe and tells her that Mma Makutsi has assigned him a case that has overwhelmed him and he doesn't know where to turn next. Of course, Precious makes plans to help him out, suspecting that Grace may have bungled things. Perhaps she should have had more faith in her training of her assistant.
These books are deceptively simple. While reading, one feels that they are just talk, talk, talk, and nothing is really happening. Then at the end you look back and realize that actually quite a bit of consequence happened.
It's great fun to tootle around the potholed roads of Botswana with Mma Ramotswe in her little white van, listening to her ruminations on human nature, the beauty of the landscape, Nature's gifts, the history of her country, and her memories of her beloved daddy and growing up on his farm. One comes to the end of such a trip with a much lighter and hopeful and more peaceful view of the world. It's a wonderful antidote to some of the darker material I've been reading lately.
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