The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith

In a shocking turn of events, I have not had a lot of patience or attention for fiction so far this year. I was kind of kidding when I said that at the beginning of February, but it has turned out to be true. I keep moving the fiction further down my bedside table and pulling non-fiction and memoirs off the shelf. I am as confounded by this as you are.

I made an exception last week to read the newest in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection. I have been a faithful fan for, lo, these many years now. Someone at Random House knows this and sent me an advance copy. These are not fancy books, and they are not even detective stories, really. But I can never get enough of the gentle humor and the tender and wry observations about people. At first glance, they don’t seem like books that would make someone laugh out loud, but somehow they get me every time. And when I read the passages aloud to Mike, he laughs, too, even though he really only knows the barest of details about the series.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is filled with kindness, but this one in particular impressed me with the humanity of the storylines and how much it loved the characters that I have come to love, too. I know I just said that the books made me laugh, but I am going to share a passage that was so beautiful that it brought me to tears. Here, Precious Ramotswe is thinking about her beloved late father, Obed Ramotswe, a cattle farmer.

She did not know–not in her heart of hearts–whether her father, the late Obed Ramotswe, could hear her. She addressed him often enough, drawing his attention to some unusual sight she encountered along the road; she addressed him as if he were sitting there in the van with her, but she thought that it was just wishful thinking, nothing more than that. She did not think that he had altogether ceased to exist, but of where exactly he was, where that place to which he had gone was located, she had no idea, other than it was somewhere above Botswana, or on the same level as Botswana but around some corner that one day we all must turn. Beyond that, she could not be certain. All she knew was that it would be a place of cattle bells and gentle, life-giving rain; a place in which all our tears would be wiped tenderly away.

Being with Mma Ramotswe is like sitting with a long-time friend who always looks for the best in you and who tells the same jokes she’s been telling for as long as you can remember. I thought about telling you that the book was saving my life, but that’s not quite it. More that it makes me a better person to see things through her eyes, and it’s always good to visit with her again.

Random House provided me with a copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

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