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If You Want to Make God Laugh

A Novel
Written by: Bianca Marais
Length: 12 hrs and 39 mins
5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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, 17-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?

©2019 Bianca Marais (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"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)

"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, best-selling author of The Light We Lost and More Than Words)

"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, best-selling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor

What listeners say about If You Want to Make God Laugh

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Beautiful Characters and Story

The story brings together three strong women who have all suffered heartbreak in their lives. Bianca Marais lets us live through the AIDS epidemic and life in South Africa in the 90s with sympathy for those going through the epidemic, as well as with hope for their future. She ties up so many elements of plot by the end. I will recommend this book to book clubs as their is lots of opportunity for discussion—love, loss, sibling rivalry, secrets, and racism. Also, to those who like historical fiction as a way of appreciating history!

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A great read/listen!

A terrific story with engaging characters. The audiobook is done with native South African actors and their authentic accents enhance the
experience. I particularly liked how the audiobook chose to use three actresses- one for each of the three main characters. I can’t express how much I enjoyed this book!

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Incredible

Another amazing book by Bianca Marais. Wow.
The story of 3 strong but very human African women facing heartbreaking circumstances. I began this book without pre-reading the story line, and I'm glad I did. Trust the in the author, and just read the book.
The three narrators were incredible too. This is definitely one story that I will listen to again.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-04-20

LOVED IT!

It was the title that caught my eye and the sample that drew me in. Wonderful story full of loss, love and forgiveness. I was rootng for all of these ladies, but Ruth was my favorite. It's amazing how the power of love can transform.

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  • Michelle P. Adamo
  • 2020-02-08

A captivating, powerful novel

Three strong, yet vulnerable women, each with a painful past, come together in South Africa just as apartheid is ending. Each of these women is a survivor. “As women, we're told our worth and our value, and the many ways in which we fall short of others' expectations; we're told why we're whores and why society can't tolerate whores. We're reminded of the ways we dishonor the unwritten contract we didn't know we signed on the day of our birth: a contract in which we agreed to toe the line and know our place simply because we are the fairer sex.” The story is told from alternating points of view, “I’ve just come to realize more and more that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. And I’ve never had more plans than I have now.”

A riveting, fast-moving, powerful novel, with an intriguing, story line and strong, well-developed characters. Marais does a tremendous job of intermingling their backstories, and their lives. The book's beautiful prose addresses many difficult issues including racism, homophobia, rape, and AIDS. A story of loss and sorry, yet full of love and heart and hope. A story that looks at what exactly it means to be a family.

This book captivated me. I loved everything about it, the characters and the storyline. It has been difficult for me to come up with a review for If You Want To Make God Laugh primarily because I’ve been dumbfounded by how much I loved the book. Bianca Marais may be my new favorite author (I’m looking forward to reading her previous book, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words). A strong 5 stars. A must read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

For more book reviews follow me on Instagram at #emptynestreader and on Goodreads. #ifyouwanttomakegodlaugh #biancamarais #gpputnamssons #fiction #historicalfiction #africa #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookstagramalabama #bookstagrammichigan #bookreview #bookreviewer #bookrecommendations #readingbringsjoy #whatimreading #bookclubbook #goodreadschallenge #igbooks #booklove #bookstafam #whatimreading #readingismylife #bookaddicts #februaryreads #audible #audiobook #emptynestreaderaudiobook🎧

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  • Lindy Dabin
  • 2020-01-11

Beautiful, heartbreaking, inspirational

I couldn’t stop listening. As a South African living in America, it was a reminder of what life used to be like. The authenticity was incredible. The blend of truth and fiction so seamless that I was left wondering how many similar real life stories like this there could actually be. This author’s humor is also wonderful. Thank you for a beautiful, heartbreaking and inspirational story!