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5.0 out of 5 starsA truly beautiful story
Reviewed in the United States on June 10, 2020
I loved everything about this beautiful book. I'm always up for a multiple POV novel, and each of the main characters, Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah, have fascinating and important stories. This novel touches on so many important themes—race, prejudice, sexual assault, HIV/AIDs, but really it's a story about relationships and family. Is family those you are born to, or those you find and make your own along the way? Marais did a remarkable job weaving together the stories of these three women while bringing in their fascinating and often tragic backstories to help us understand what motivates them to make the choices they make. While there is a lot of sadness and loss, the story is ultimately one of hope and optimism. Pick this one up right away—you'll thank me for the recommendation for sure.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but this book was one of the best I’ve read all year. The story is heartbreaking in many ways but there is also a great deal of hope. It’s a beautiful book and I can’t wait to read more by this author!
What a wonderful read. It opened up my eyes to the HIV epidemic that attacked Africa. The story was so heartwarming and kept the mystery going throughout the chapters. I will forever keep this story in my heart and keep it in my library. It will become one of those that I'll recommend to my closest of friends.
5.0 out of 5 starsRelevant Topic and Phenomenal Writing
Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2020
If You Want God to Laugh is one of the most memorable books I have read in a long time. The setting is South Africa in the late 1990’s. The author superbly weaves together the stories of three women and their families in this story of poverty, inequality, injustice, deceit, sexual abuse, the Catholic Church, and human weakness and strength; all amidst the life saving power of love. The weaving of lives is brilliantly told with deep character studies and poignant rendering of life at this time and place. It is a story that will open eyes as well as hearts. I know it did mine.
If You Want to Make God Laugh was an evocative and compelling book in which the storyline utterly mimics the title’s meaning. We make plans, G-d changes them. It’s an adage I’ve heard many times, and this book reflects this through powerful storytelling.
The author’s first book, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words, blew me away with the excellent writing, an enchanting story and that the author simultaneously taught me so much in the process. Her second book proves that her first book was not a one-hit wonder. Marais, once again, has a woven a complex story with three distinct threads, each equally gripping.
This book takes place in South Africa in the late nineties when Mandela was elected president. Three women, seemingly different, have more in common than they think. Each of them has unique secrets and regrets, which makes them feel hopeless and alone. Often, it’s our biggest challenges that become the stepping stones to moving forward. With all the characters in emotional pain and despair, it would be easy for this book to fall into a heavy pit of gloom; let me assure you, there is hope, light and even some humor to keep the story in balance.
Being raised in South Africa, the author has a great understanding of the country, knew the pulse of the time-period and the heart-beat of the people. While living there, the AIDS epidemic was in full throttle. For many years, Marais volunteered as an aid worker for AIDS afflicted orphans. I’m sure it was those experiences that allowed Sodwa’s circumstances to feel so real.
Structurally, this book was brilliant. Three characters narrate this story, each with their own chapter – that’s nothing new. What made this book unique is that two of characters are written in the first person and the other, Sodwa, is in the third. Additionally, there are references to her first book such as the Soweto uprising and cameos of characters that were beloved to the reader. Small nuances like that gave the book a healthy dose of oomph and depth. Really, this book is a slam dunk covering marriage, Catholicism, corruption in the church, sisterhood, rape, AIDS, homosexuality, white supremacy, parenting, friendship and love.
In a nutshell, it’s an enthralling story with multi-faceted characters with a strong sense of both place and time. Book clubs will love this one!
The end of Apartheid. Nelson Mandela has been elected the president of South Africa. AIDS is becoming an epidemic.
Seventeen year old Zodwa lives in a squatter camp with her sick mother. Zodwa is expecting a baby she doesn't want and hiding a secret that could get her killed.
Dee is helping children in an orphanage in Zaire but when she gets word that Daniel is dying she return home to South Africa for the first time in over forty years.
Ruth stages her own suicide attempt to win back her husband but he is unmoved and she has no where else to go except home to the farm she hopes to sell. But her sister has returned and has no intention of selling the home she left as a teen to become a nun.
Binding them all together is a baby boy
I very much enjoyed Bianca Marsais's novel Hum If You Don't Know the Words that released in 2017 so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read her newest novel If You Want to Make God Laugh. Besides the long titles, the books stand out with the colorful covers and call to me. They immediately draw me in with the South African settings and their rich characters.
If You Want to Make God Laugh captured my attention from the first page and the pacing of short chapters kept me turning the pages late into the night. The plot is emotional and thrilling but the characters, broken and determined, made me fall in love with the novel. I read with my heart in my throat as they struggled to make the best of the terrible situations. Each character was motivated by love and they felt deeply human.
It's a world without fairy tale endings, but If You Want to Make God Laugh offers hope. It is a journey of emotion--a beautiful book that tells a story I won't soon forget.
Finished off 2019 on a high note thanks to this beautiful five-star read. Absolutely gutted by this emotional story of three very-different women each navigating their own crisis in post-apartheid South Africa. But from pain comes joy and as heartbreaking as it was, it was still the sweetest story that I’ve read in a while. Bianca Marais is a genius, creating the most compelling complex characters and weaving in bits of history into their storyline. I realized how very little I knew of South Africa’s dark past and found myself repeatedly looking up different topics along the way. She doesn’t shy away from the tough subjects either - AIDS epidemic, racism, homophobia, gender discrimination, sexual assault, social unrest... it’s all in there. The chapter where Gogo went to vote left me in tears and she isn’t even a main character... you can only imagine how I was getting through the rest of the book. I cannot wait to read her first book Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. Highly recommend anything by this author!
A beautiful and moving quest written from a heartfelt perspective. I discovered a world I barely knew and characters that I instantly welcomed and wanted to know how their journeys ended. Had the privilege of meeting the author at my book club and she opened that world even further.