Ken Bonert's debut novel, The Lion Seeker, is a coming-of-age novel set primarily in Johannesburg, South Africa. It follows the adventures of Jewish immigrant Isaac Helger as he grows from boy to man, navigating a delicate path between his father Abel's faith and belief in the rewards of hard work and his mother Gitelle's unbridled ambition for her son. Along the way Isaac learns about love, labor, bigotry and the importance of family.
The plot is pretty standard coming-of-age fare, but there are many other aspects of The Lion Seeker that are exceptional, which make the novel a stand-out for me. First, there's the exotic nature of the setting and the characters. With most of the story occurring before WWII begins, the plot centers on the lives of a family of Jews who have emigrated from Lithuania and are trying to eke out a living in Doornfontein, a Jewish section...
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