The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party NPR coverage of The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
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The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

by Alexander McCall Smith

Paperback, 213 pages, Random House Inc, List Price: $14.95 |


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The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
Alexander McCall Smith

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Book Summary

Hoping to reclaim a van that was featured in a possible prophetic dream, Precious and Grace find themselves helping an apprentice of Phuti Radiphuti, investigating a cattle poisoning, and considering Grace's possible marriage to Phuti.

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Awards and Recognition

4 weeks on NPR Paperback Fiction Bestseller List

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

Mma Ramotswe had by no means forgotten her late white van. It was true that she did not brood upon it, as some people dwell on things of the past, but it still came to mind from time to time, often at unexpected moments. Memories of that which we have lost are curious thingsâ€"weeks, months, even years may pass without any recollection of them and then, quite suddenly, some­thing will remind us of a lost friend, or of a favourite possession that has been mislaid or destroyed, and then we will think: Yes, that is what I had and I have no longer.
Her van had been her companion and friend for many years. Can a vehicleâ€"a collection of mechanical bits and pieces, nuts and bolts and parts the names of which one has not the faintest idea ofâ€"can such a thing be a friend? Of course it can: physical objects can have personalities, at least in the eyes of their owners. To others, it may only be a van, but to the owner it may be the friend that has started loyally each morningâ€"except sometimes; that has sat patiently during long hours of waiting outside the houses of suspected adulterers; that has carried one home in the late afternoon, tired after a day’s work at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detec­tive Agency. And just like a person, a car or a van may have likes and dislikes. A good tar road is balm to man and machine and may pro­duce a humming sound of satisfaction in both car and driver; an unpaved road, concealing behind each bend a deep pothole or tiny mountain range of corrugations, may provoke rattles and groans of protest from even the most tolerant of vehicles. For this reason, the owners of cars may be forgiven for thinking that under the metal there lurks something not all that different from a human soul.
Mma Ramotswe’s van had served her well, and she loved it. Its life, though, had been a hard one. Not only had it been obliged to cope with dust, which, as anybody who lives in a dry country will know, can choke a vehicle to death, but its long-suffering suspen­sion had been required to deal with persistent overloading, at least on the driver’s side. That, of course, was the side on which Mma Ramotswe sat, and she was, by her own admission and description, a traditionally built person. Such a person can wear down even the toughest suspension, and this is exactly what happened in the case of the tiny white van, which permanently listed to starboard as a result.
Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, that excel­lent man, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and widely regarded as the best mechanic in all Botswana, had done his best to address the problem, but had tired of having to change the van’s shock absorbers from side to side so as to equalise the strain. Yet it went further than that. The engine itself had started to make a sin­ister sound, which grew in volume until eventually the big-end failed.
“I am just a mechanic, Mma Ramotswe,” he had said to his wife. “A mechanic is a man who fixes cars and other vehicles. That is what a mechanic does.”
Mma Ramotswe had listened politely, but her heart within her was a stone of fear. She knew that the fate of her van was at stake, and she would prefer not to know that. “I think I understand what a mechanic does, Rra,” she said. “And you are a very good mechanic, quite capable of fixing aâ€"”
She did not finish. The normally mild Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni had raised a finger. “A mechanic, Mma,” he pronounced, “is different from a miracle-worker. A miracle-worker is a person who . . . works miracles. A mechanic cannot do that. And so when the time comes for a vehicle to dieâ€"and they are mortal, Mma, I can assure youâ€" then he cannot wave a wand and make the car new again.” He paused, looking at her with the air of a doctor imparting bad news. “And so . . .”
He had done his best for her, of course, and bought her a spanking new van, blue this time, with an array of butto