Title: Jamie James and the Curse of the Ancestors
Author: Roy Aronson
Publisher: Amazon Asia Pacific Holdings Private Ltd
Date of Publication: 15 August 2011(To be republished in 2018)
A young boy of 15, Jamie is like any other boy his age. He enjoys playing sport and loves to be greeted by his parrot who can talk Afrikaans with him. Jamie is in for a shock when one fine day he returns home to receive an email from his father asking him to visit Nelspruit immediately. Jamie’s parents had chosen to separate a long time back. Jamie has vacations ahead and his mother leaves the decision up to him. With few days at hand to come to a decision, Jamie half -heartedly chooses to go.
Jamie James and the Curse of the Ancestors has an easy flowing narrative with a good choice of words. Aronson is highly descriptive and there is a right balance between the vocabulary and the descriptions. The surroundings add to the story which moves with a moderate pace that is easy to follow. Told from a first person narratorial point of view of a 15 year old boy, it sounds very much authentic of the musings, fears, feelings of a young boy and everything that he questions and is curious about. There is a good blend of the city and the country side with Jamie being a Cape Town boy visiting his father in the exotic Nelspruit. South Africa is brilliantly portrayed which will be interesting to any reader that is not too familiar with the African continent and the sights it offers. The chapters find breaks which mark a shift in the story with a herd of elephants running behind one another that serve as a page breaker. It only goes on to add and anticipate the flavours of African Safari.
Much to his disappointment, Jamie’s father does not come to pick him up at the airport. Rather he sends Lexi whose appearance is that of a pretty woman in khaki shorts and a khaki shirt. She takes him into a mud caked Land Rover. Much to his oblivion, Jamie’s adventure has already begun. As the car roars so does the events of the story and vet Lexi takes him along to game reserves and vet hospitals with strange African names that he’s not known before. Along with this, his inner turmoil of being more his father’s son or his mother’s son leaves him emotionally confused. He seems to be receiving equal love from both of them but doesn’t know whose side to take. He has grudges about their separation and he learns to acquire skills from his dad and enjoy some father son time. Ten years without a father is a long time but he’s not too excited to meet him and calls him ‘sir’. Their interaction and bonding is a sub theme that grows alongside the adventures. Jamie receives some ground breaking revelations from him father that completely changes the purpose of his visit. Humour is used discreetly, it is neither hilarious nor rib tickling but adds to the story. Meeting Xoliswa makes him miss his mother less.
Things take a sudden turn with the episode of a black man being beaten for being accused of theft by a white man till he dies and it brings out the grim reality of the indifference the law has towards coloured people giving room for more racist attacks and incidents. It allows some people to take the law in their hands. The white master thinks that he’s only administering justice. The only retaliation that the mother of the black slave has is a bunch of ancient curses. She prepares the pot and gets in touch with the spirits of the ancestors. With revelation from the trance she is prepared to confront her son’s murderers. This white man turns out to be none other than Jamie’s grandfather and now it is incumbent on Jamie to do something to prevent the curse from rolling. Having a scorpion hurled at him is a supernatural trick of the mind to prevent him from starting his work. Enough attention has been given to building dialogues and exchanges between new characters. The plot is not cluttered with too many characters except those that are essential. Jamie has to go hunting with his dad and his team and learns that he too has sharp instincts for wildlife. Nostalgia prevails as he comes face to face with his history, heritage and his childhood friend-all that he’s missed in the ten years away. With some Marxist and post colonial leanings, the book is a good insight into the culture of countryside South Africa through the eyes of a city boy visitor making the story highly relatable. It makes him take the decision of becoming a professional vet. Despite supernatural elements and curses, the story is not all superstitious. The central focus remains on the growth of the protagonist from a diffident young boy to a matured chap taking on the challenges of manhood. The ancestors constantly pester him and try to dissuade him but he must remain steadfast on his path to wipe away the curse from his bloodline and help as many animals in need as possible. How far does Jamie succeed? Read to find out.