4 out of 4 stars
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Walter Sabukwana is contemplating a decision that may result in life-altering consequences. For years he has struggled with severe anxiety; medications haven't helped, and his wife is considering divorce. When his neurologist contacts him about performing a risky brain surgery, Walter confides his dilemma to a colleague, John Legrand. Previously, their conversations have only been of a casual nature, but Walter senses that John is kind and a good listener. Walter's transparency and the severity of the decision before him affect John dramatically. Steven Romain’s True-Life Walter chronicles the results of Walter's decision and the deepening friendship that ensues between the two men.
Set in South Africa, this 110-page fictional narrative addresses themes such as anxiety, friendship, race, free choice, classism, and identity. However, Romain seamlessly weaves the more serious issues throughout the relationship-driven plot, maintaining balance in the story. For instance, John is a professor and mentions his pet project, a live "performance of personal poetry focused on feelings about and visions of apartheid." Later in the book, John arranges for Walter to visit a Rudyard Kipling library. Walter is deeply affected by Kipling's stories and helps a troubled young woman by orchestrating an impromptu demonstration of the concepts presented in the Water Truce from "How Fear Came."
The book is somewhat unique in the sense that the first-person narrative is written from John's perspective about Walter. It is well written, professionally edited, and quite thought-provoking. Romain effectively conveys the changes that John witnesses in Walter, both those he wants to emulate and those that arouse concern for his friend's well-being.
I particularly liked Romain's prose-like writing style, which was laden with imagery and laced with humor. Some passages begged to be read more than once, such as "...there was just enough beauty and softness and harmony in the environment to comfort our hearts for the journey home." I also enjoyed the descriptions of Walter's uninhibited dancing.
I am unable to highlight any areas for improvement or name any dislikes. The book is free from profanity and sexual content, but sensitive readers should be warned there is an instance of drug use.
I'm pleased to rate this evocative read 4 out of 4 stars. There is a popular meme based on a quote from Kurt Vonnegut. "Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things." With that in mind, I recommend the book to readers who enjoy relationship-driven plots and stories that inspire you to ponder the little things.
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