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Penguin: Adult Hardcover & Trade Paperback Summer 2019

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If You Want to Make God Laugh
By (author): Bianca Marais
9780735219311 Hardcover English General Trade FICTION / Family Life / General Jul 16, 2019
$35.00 CAD
Active 6.33 x 9.3 x 1.37 in 448 pages Putnam G.P. Putnam's Sons
From the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words comes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.

In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.

Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it’s what she can’t have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to heal, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.

As the mystery surrounding the infant grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?

Story Locale: Post-Apartheid South Africa

RAVE REVIEWS: Bianca Marais’ first novel, Hum if You Don’t Know the Words, was published to rave reviews from outlets like O Magazine, USA Today, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, and the New York Post, with O Magazine declaring it “Radiant….A stirring ode to a country’s painful maturation.”

BELOVED AUTHOR: Marais is popular with booksellers and within the writing community. Hum if You Don’t Know the Words was selected for Indie Next and Indies Introduce, and received glowing bookseller quotes, as well as blurbs from authors like Terry McMillan, Rebecca Wells, Tara Conklin, and Jennifer Chiaverini.

WHAT READERS LOVED ABOUT HER DEBUT…: The elements that reviewers and readers loved about Marais’ first novel—the emotionally rich characters, authentic historical setting, and heartwarming prose—are all on display in If You Want to Make God Laugh.

…WITH MORE UNIVERSAL APPEAL: If You Want to Make God Laugh is set much closer to the present-day than Hum, in an era that American readers are familiar with and that features well-known historical figures like Nelson Mandela. The story is told over a broader canvas, spanning years and narrated by multiple intriguing women.

RICH HISTORICAL SETTING: The authentic depiction of life in the slums of Johannesburg and rural South Africa create a remarkable sense of place, and the region is popular in fiction, most recently with Viking’s What We Lose.

Bianca Marais is the author of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. She holds a certificate in creative writing from the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, where she now teaches creative writing. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans. Originally from South Africa, she now resides in Toronto with her husband.

Author Residence: Toronto, ON

Author Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

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Praise of If You Want to Make God Laugh

“Lovely….Marais showcases her talent for pulling beauty from the pain of South African history with a strong story and wonderfully imperfect characters.”—Publishers Weekly

“This earnest novel burns with the consequences of forbidden romance, betrayal, and the redemptive power of love.”—Booklist

“Marais excels at creating compelling characters; readers will be turning the pages, wondering what life has in store for each.”—Library Journal

“A moving portrait of the choices women can make—and the ones we can’t. Beautifully crafted and powerfully drawn, this book had me in tears.”--Jill Santopolo, bestselling author of The Light We Lost

“A story of three remarkable women at crossroads in their own lives against the backdrop of South Africa at the moment of stunning transformation that will keep you reading late into the night. Marais deftly completes a writer’s hat trick, leaving you gutted, smiling through tears and soaring with hope.”—Steven Rowley, bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor

“You will absolutely love this book. You will. Why? Because Bianca Marais’s heart is immense and full of love. With unsparing insight into the human condition, she unspools a tale that is at once heartbreaking as it is merciful, validating our frailty while eulogizing our endless capacity for generosity and love. We all need the deep refuge of Bianca Marais’s exceptional voice.”—Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter and I Always Loved You

Praise for Hum If You Don’t Know the Words

“Radiant….A stirring ode to a country’s painful maturation.” -O, The Oprah Magazine

“Richly drawn…[The characters’] journeys and eventual love poignantly demonstrate that nothing is simply black or white.” -USA Today

“With its vivid, emotional scene-setting, alternating narration and tense plotting, this novel is a thoughtful, compelling page-turner.”

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