In Johannesburg, South Africa, in the late 1960s, twelve-year-old Emily, who longs for affection from her quarreling parents, finds comfort in the stories of a Zulu servant and in her friendship with a young houseguest who has an equally troubled family.
Set in apartheid South Africa, this powerful and lyrically written novel is Linzi Glass’s debut. As twelve-year-old Emily Iris explains it, her mother and father have always been eager to take in travelers and vagabonds, relying on the presence of outsiders to ease the tension between them. Emily has her gentle older sister, Sarah, and Buza, the old Zulu nightwatchman, for company and comfort. But her parents’ continuing discontent leads them to welcome some peculiar strangers. One spring, a family of wanderers—a wildlife photographer, his wife, and two boys—comes to stay, and their strange, compelling, and dangerous presence will leave the Iris family infinitely changed.