Ancient wisdom in a modern language
3 out of 5 stars
A book of hope and inspiration, THE KIN OF ATA ARE WAITING FOR YOU by Dorothy Bryant carries the reader along as gently and as inexorably as a mountain stream.
The anti-hero we meet in the first pages is unlikeable in many ways; despite this (or perhaps because of it) one has a stake in the outcome of his spiritual journey on the island of Ata and his final test back in the material world.
Life on Ata is what one imagines pre-lapserian Eden was like. As he experiences more of the community of Ata; as he learns to understand more than just the spoken language of the Kin, and as he bonds emotionally with the stately Augustine, a woman like none other he has known, his soul evolves and blossoms like a desert flower after the first drops of life giving rain.
There are many insights and thought-provoking scenes throughout this story, all the more remarkable when one remembers that this story was written in 1971! It’s all too easy to miss the far-sighted vision of Bryant when one reads this book in the second decade of the 21st century, when the search for individual spiritual enlightenment has been mainstream for the last twenty years or more. When it was first published, THE KIN OF ATA must surely have been both ground-breaking and deeply illuminating.
THE KIN OF ATA is a story that must be read with an open mind and patience, for its message is subtle, layered and important.
However, I had personal issue with the projection of a universal human condition (racial prejudice) onto the convenient scapegoat that is South Africa. In addition, there were times when the narrative was too lengthy. Mostly, the writing was so lyrical and so dream-like it only added to the otherworldly ambience of the anti-hero’s soul journey. There were occasions, though, when some dialogue, or shorter descriptions may have been more effective in holding the reader. The current title, too, is obscure; I prefer the original title “The Comforter.”
The final strength of this story lies in the lingering effect it has on a reader. Ultimately, this is a book for all ages and all seasons: the truths it contains are truths of an ancient wisdom spoken in the language of our time. We may, as the anti-hero did when he first arrived on Ata, take some time to fully understand what we’ve experienced but, when we reach that moment of enlightenment, we’ll find ourselves forever changed. See PJ’s earlier review
Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, and other short stories and poems have appeared in Itch-e Magazine and Notes from Underground Anthology. Her independently published novel, Dancing in the Shadows of Love, is available from Amazon.com andLoot.co.za. Visit Judy on her blog www.judycroome.blogspot.com