Cover of Skinner’s Drift

 

Skinner’s Drift

 

 

Skinner’s Drift—that’s the name of the farm in the Limpopo River Valley near the Botswana border to which self-exiled South African Eva von Rensburg returns after living in New York for ten years. Her mother is long dead, the victim of an awful shooting accident, and now Eva is on a mission to see her dying father.

The visible landscape comes beautifully alive—at one point a character named Jannie, a friend of the family and a hunter and taxidermist sticks his head out of the window of his house and lets out a howl, because, as Fugard tells us, “he couldn’t imagine living anywhere more wild and beautiful.” We get a clear sense of that beauty in the novelist’s descriptions of the bush along the river and the horizons of the dusty roads the characters travel.

But Eva’s inner landscape is terribly troubled. She’s been carrying around with her since childhood the dark legacy of a terrible deed her father once committed, and her sense of life seems frozen, despite the climate, despite the heat. The narrative of her childhood on the farm, assisted by long passages from her late mother’s journals, gives us a view of that troubled past of hers and serves as a lively, often lyrical, counterpoint to the familial duties of the present. Her parents, the black servants and farm workers, neighboring settlers, all become quite vivid and memorable as does the feel of the time and place, the land along the sometimes flowing Limpopo, as Lefu, the aging black farm manager thinks of it, with its birds and lions, fierce sandstone cliffs, and the ancient baobab tree three miles south of the river that marked the southern boundary.

In this self-contained space, where past and present mingle, Lisa Fugard dramatizes for us the great difficulties of reconciliation, between family members, among the disparate peoples of a great African nation, between our species and the rest of nature. That she succeeds at all is a measure of her fine talent, that she transports us to this place and makes us feel the turmoil of personal politics and local disruption in our very bones marks the triumph of a powerful first novel.

—Alan Cheuse, 2007 finalist judge


2007 Fiction Runner-Up


(Click play to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Lisa Fugard
Skinner’s Drift

Lisa Fugard was born in South Africa and came to the United States in 1980. After working in the theater, performing in New York, London and South Africa, she turned her attention to writing. Her short fiction has been published in Story, Outside and literary magazines. Her many travel articles and essays have been published in the New York Times.

Skinner’s Drift her first novel has been published in the USA, UK and South Africa. Named a notable book of 2006 by the New York Times, Skinner’s Drift was also a finalist for the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. She lives in Southern California with her young son and is working on a second novel.

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“The books that I love, that affect me deeply are the ones that not only provide a window to the outside world, but also illuminate something within. This is why words matter, why a book has the power to transform a life. I am astonished and delighted and honored to have Skinner’s Drift recognised by the Dayton Literary Peace Prize as the Fiction Runner-up.”

—Lisa Fugard                        


 
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