"The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo" by Peter Orner

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"The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo" is told in snippets, tiny chapters, some as short as a paragraph, that observe the lives, lusts, and shenanigans of teachers at a Catholic boys' school in the veld of Namibia.

Some of the snippets provide forward momentum, as we learn of the volunteer teacher from Cincinnati, a youngish Jewish man who, along with the other male teachers, lusts after the eponymous Mavala. Young Larry Kaplanski, our Buckeye protaganist, engages in a long series of assignations with the heroine, and works less than diligently at his teaching job.

These brief chapters make this book a quick read, but don't get in the way of our knowing the characters. They (the chapters) are often extremely funny, but there is some informed, charged talk about the newly independent Namibia, about how isolated everyone is, about the struggle between the parish priest and the principal. There are other weighty issues to grapple with, too, as when a young boy dies en route back to school after a holiday. While this is an enjoyable book and effective in its way, its characters don't do quite enough to win our sympathy, and the point of the exercise remains, frankly, murky.
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