Excerpt from Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Blue Shoes and Happiness

By Alexander McCall Smith

Blue Shoes and Happiness
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2006,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2007,
    240 pages.

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"I think you're right, Mma," she said. "Everybody has a weakness, and most of us are not strong enough to resist it."

Mma Ramotswe looked at her assistant. She had an idea what Mma Makutsi's weakness might be, and indeed there might even be more than one.

"Take Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, for example," said Mma Ramotswe.

"All men are weak," said Mma Makutsi. "That is well known." She paused. Now that Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni were married, it was possible that Mma Ramotswe had discovered new weaknesses in him. The mechanic was a quiet man, but it was often the mildest-looking people who did the most colourful things, in secret of course. What could Mr J.L.B. Matekoni get up to? It would be very interesting to hear.

"Cake," said Mma Ramotswe quickly. "That is Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's great weakness. He cannot help himself when it comes to cake. He can be manipulated very easily if he has a plate of cake in his hand."

Mma Makutsi laughed. "Mma Potokwane knows that, doesn't she?" she said. "I have seen her getting Mr J.L.B. Matekoni to do all sorts of things for her just by offering him pieces of that fruit cake of hers."

Mma Ramotswe rolled her eyes up towards the ceiling. Mma Potokwane, the matron of the orphan farm, was her friend, and when all was said and done she was a good woman, but she was quite ruthless when it came to getting things for the children in her care. She it was who had cajoled Mr J.L.B. Matekoni into fostering the two children who now lived in their house; that had been a good thing, of course, and the children were dearly loved, but Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had not thought the thing through and had failed even to consult Mma Ramotswe about the whole matter. And then there were the numerous occasions on which she had prevailed upon him to spend hours of his time fixing that unreliable old water pump at the orphan farm-a pump which dated back to the days of the Protectorate and which should have been retired and put into a museum long ago. And Mma Potokwane achieved all of this because she had a profound understanding of how men worked and what their weaknesses were; that was the secret of so many successful women-they knew about the weaknesses of men.

That conversation with Mma Makutsi had taken place some days before. Now Mma Ramotswe was sitting on the verandah of her house on Zebra Drive, late on a Saturday afternoon, reading the paper. She was the only person in the house at the time, which was unusual for a Saturday. The children were both out: Motholeli had gone to spend the weekend with a friend whose family lived out at Mogiditishane. This friend's mother had picked her up in her small truck and had stored the wheelchair in the back with some large balls of string that had aroused Mma Ramotswe's interest but which she had not felt it her place to ask about. What could anybody want with such a quantity of string? she wondered. Most people needed very little string, if any, in their lives, but this woman, who was a beautician, seemed to need a great deal. Did beauticians have a special use for string that the rest of us knew nothing about? Mma Ramotswe asked herself. People spoke about face-lifts; did string come into face-lifts?

Puso, the boy, who had caused them such concern over his unpredictable behaviour but who had recently become much more settled, had gone off with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni to see an important football match at the stadium. Mma Ramotswe did not consider it important in the least-she had no interest in football, and she could not see how it could possibly matter in the slightest who succeeded in kicking the ball into the goal the most times-but Mr J.L.B. Matekoni clearly thought differently. He was a close follower and supporter of the Zebras, and tried to get to the stadium whenever they were playing. Fortunately the Zebras were doing well at the moment, and this, thought Mma Ramotswe, was a good thing: it was quite possible, she felt, that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's depression, from which he had made a good recovery, could recur if he, or the Zebras, were to suffer any serious set-back.

Excerpted from Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith Copyright © 2006 by Alexander McCall Smith. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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