Hum If You Don’t Know the Words

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words


Perfect for readers 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 nine-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 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.

Title:Hum If You Don’t Know the Words
Edition Language:English
Format Type:
Number of Pages:432 pages

    Hum If You Don’t Know the Words Reviews

  • Angela M

    There was something about this title that drew me to read the description and then after reading that this was about apartheid in South Africa I decided that I'd take a chance on this debut novel beca...

  • Diane S ?

    A book of unbearable loss, grief, sad and yet for the most part beautiful as well. South Africa apartheid, the Soweto uprising and a nine year old white girl caught up in the terror, as well as a Nine...

  • Charmaine Shepherd

    There are some good books that you read once and pass on but occasionally you find one which you can read over and over. I have reread this book 3 times and each time I gain a little more from it. Thi...

  • Caroline

    As I read Hum If You Don’t Know The Words, I cried in my bed, laughed on the subway and nodded in agreement in the passport-office lounge. I often wished I could pause and tell someone – anyone ne...

  • Sam

    Hum if You Don't Know the Words is a novel set in 1975-76 South Africa, with the Soweto Uprising as the linchpin that brings the two main characters together and sets in motion the events of the novel...

  • Tania

    I despair that we are all becoming murderers, white and black alike, and that we will never be able to wipe this blood from our hands. I pray that I am wrong.I loved these characters - Beauty and Robi...

  • Sonja Arlow

    3 1/2 starsJust before starting this book I thought that the publishers really should have released this book on 16 June, which is Youth Day in South Africa, commemorating the Soweto Uprising. However...

  • Kevin Kilmartin

    Every now and again, a book comes along and crawls under your skin, burrows into your heart and hibernates with you for weeks. This was one of those books for me. This stunning debut novel by South Af...

  • Faith

    "Night settles swiftly. If you are vigilant, and not prone to distractions, you can almost feel the very moment daylight slips through your fingers and leaves you clutching the inky sap that is the su...

  • Bev

    Just finished "HUM IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE WORDS" and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved the title; how many times have I heard that growing up in a church choir and music classes at school? And, for the bo...