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The Blue Taxi    by N. S. Köenings order for
Blue Taxi
by N. S. Köenings
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

The Blue Taxi is all a novel should be: the narrative flows with luminous prose; it transports the reader to an alternate universe; it awakens our sensibilities.  This is a story of people coming together under the most unlikely of circumstances and places. It is the story of marriage, and of the healing powers of love.

The novel takes place in East Africa, though most of the characters come from elsewhere: Sarie Turner is a Belgian married to Gilbert, a native Brit, who relies on his rich uncle for support. Then there is the Jeevanjee family, from India. Majid is a poet, failed businessman, and reclusive widower. Bibi is the native African who watches other people's lives through her
apartment window. 

When Sarie witnesses a horrific accident in which Majid's young son loses his leg, she follows up with the boy's family, only to become embroiled in their lives, including having an affair with the widowed father. Trouble ensues for Sarie at home when the uncle threatens to cut them off unless Gilbert proves he has ideas for a business. 

It is simultaneously comical and sad to read about Gilbert's misinterpretation of his wife's affections. In one scene she squeezes his fingers so tightly, vaguely hoping they will break, while Gilbert sees this as a sign she is offering her support for his business idea. Gilbert also has a misplaced sense of self: 'Gilbert liked to view himself as a strong man and as an able husband. And so he often told himself that Sarie, no matter what she said or did, was a fragile thing, unsure of what she wanted, and that she needed him to tell her what to do.' Sarie was aware of this and sometimes played along, but there were limits to what she could accept.

It astounded me to read an interview in which Köenings said that English was not her native language, because she writes with such clarity and an innate understanding of human nature: 'She made up her mind. Because the hardships and sadness that swelled and moved inside her were too difficult to think of with precision, Sarie, with a monumental shove against and through her weakened skin, stepped outside of her body to give herself advice.' Köenings is an author to watch. I would not be surprised if this novel receives a literary award in the future.

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