Off the Voortrekker Road is a tale of South African lives and justice written in the same vein as one of my favorite novels, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Jack Neuberger is a young Jewish lawyer that has taken on a difficult case that no one else in his law firm wants. Johannes van Heerden is a Dutch Reform minister with a loving wife, Laura. After Laura has a difficult birth with their last child, Johannes took over some of her charitable work and met Agnes Small. Now many people are talking about Johannes and Agnes having an affair. This would be bad enough as Johannes is a minister, but it’s also breaking a new law that condemns “immoral or indecent acts” with a “non-white.” Jack has to get to the bottom of what is happening as well as ponder whether this law is a just law.
The novel also flashes back to Jack’s youth. Jack had a hard life as a kid. His parents had a very strained relationship, which often led to Jack’s mother leaving his father. His one stability in life is his friendship with Terence Mostert. Terence’s father is in a sanitarium for TB, but his mother May is a good person and runs their auto shop with the help of mechanic Walter. As Jack grows older, he realizes that although May and Walter are both good people, as a white and non-white, talk of them being together is dangerous.
As the threads of the two stories reach a head, Jack has to decide what is right and good, and what the best course of action for the future is. I read this novel quickly and I greatly enjoyed it. I also like how it tied up the past and future storylines. I enjoyed the realistic look at relationships within this novel (parent to child, spouse to spouse, and friend to friend) as well as it being a coming of age novel for Jack.
Overall, Off the Voortrekker Road is a great historical fiction novel that deals with issues of race, humanity, and coming of age. I highly recommend this novel. It would also be a great book club book as there is much to discuss.
Book Source: Author Barbara Bleiman for Review - Thanks!