It's a black Karoo night and a young woman, covered in blood, is
running along a deserted dirt track. A terrible thing has happened
and the woman, Siena, has to reach Seekoegat Primary School at the
end of the track, the only place she knows that is safe. It's a
long way to run, a three-day ride on a donkey cart.
This is the
story of Siena, Boetie and Kriekie, whose lives intersect as
children and who meet again as adults: Boetie is a boy running
wild. Deprived and neglected he is always up to mischief but his
friendship with Siena gives him self-worth. Kriekie is a basket
case. As the child of a prostitute working the truck-stops along
the n1 he has no home. When his mother, Dolly, doesn't come back, a
small act of kindness by a woman running a shop at the truck-stop
sees him end up at Seekoegat Primary. Plodding steadily through
each chapter is the spectre of the ancient Karoo tortoise. Siena's
father, Pa, a karretjiemens, reveres the tortoise as a creature
that holds within it the wisdom of the ancient landscape and that
cries only one tear when it dies. The Tortoise Cried Its Only Tear
is award-winning author Carol Campbell's third book on the Karoo.
Like her previous work this story is a piece of social realism but,
for the first time, Campbell introduces hints of magical realism -
which is very much in keeping with the world view of the people she
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