Christy Billings, my colleague for the veterans’ writing group, suggested that we each write a review of a book that we were reading or had recently completed. Except for one of our WWII veterans who checks out books almost daily who decided he had nothing to say on any of them, everyone rose to the occasion. I was traveling with Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith on my recent forays to Denver and Williamsport. Here’s what I wrote:
Alexander McCall Smith writes faster than I can read. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is now up to more than a dozen volumes. I got lost at about number six and have started over.
Morality for Beautiful Girls confronts Precious Ramotswe of Botswana, the owner of the agency, with a series of crises. Her fiancé, the owner and chief mechanic of Speedy Motors, is wallowing in depression, her business appears to be failing, and her assistant needs extra funds to support a dying brother, on top of the money she sends to the rest of her family.
Enter the Government Man who suspects his sister-in-law is trying to kill his brother. When he appears to threaten Mma Ramotswe over the question of a license, she says, “I cannot hear what you are saying. I cannot hear you.” This approach seems a far better way to settle a dispute without either yelling or sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and yelling, “La-la-la-la-la” to drown out the other person.
AMS layers his narratives in the most excellent way, and reading the books is like peeling off the leaves of a delicious artichoke, to arrive at the heart, which one dunks in a great deal of butter and savors to the last bite.
So, pour yourself a cup of bush tea (here called rooibos or red bush) and sit under a tree to contemplate the world according to Precious Ramotswe.