Perhaps Nadine Morgan’s life is extraordinary. A journalist who has traveled to war-torn countries, from apartheid-riddled South Africa to the violent dug cartels in Mexico, her fearlessness is a personal trademark.
But Nadine’s reckless behavior is actually fueled by more subtle forces: a pervasive sense of abandonment since the early death of her mother from cancer, a devastated father who offers little support, and an urgency to escape the limitations of Cape Cod for the larger world. There she seeks refuge in the great themes that drive an unpredictable world.
Her baptism by fire comes in South Africa, where the seething unrest of poverty and apartheid exact their toll, the righteous anger of the oppressed defined in acts of rage against a brutal system. Among the dead in the late 1980s is Jason Irving, struck down in a senseless act, one of his killers a young girl, the sister of one of Nadine’s new acquaintances in a local township.
Nadine suffers another more personal and haunting tragedy at that time. She leaves Cape Town for Mexico and yet another terrible drama played out on the world stage where the innocent always suffer the harshest consequences. Then it is ten years later, Nadine still living out of her backpack with few possessions.
When she is badly beaten and left for dead by narco-traffickers, Nadine wakes up in her father’s home in Cape Cod, still healing from her injuries. A local doctor offers understanding and respite, but the need to escape emotional attachment is too deep in this troubled woman. She flees, this time back to Cape Town, South Africa, where the TRC hearings are about to consider the case of Jason Irving.
In Cape Town, the past rises up to demand Nadine’s attention at last. She is forced to look at herself, to face the consequences of her actions and how she can create a viable future. With a sub-plot that addresses a young boy’s yearning for stardom when he feels an outcast in his own life, Ward threads a fine needle to stitch yet another layer of human suffering.
A final twist sent me spinning, yet I am compelled to read the novels of a gifted writer who masterfully wields themes both simple and profound, in a poignant vision of humanity in all its forms.