If You Want to Make God Laugh

If You Want to Make God Laugh

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...

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Title:If You Want to Make God Laugh
Author:Bianca Marais
Rating:

If You Want to Make God Laugh Reviews

  • Bianca

    For fans of ‘Hum If You Don’t Know the Words’ who were hoping for the story to continue... this isn’t a sequel but look out for Beauty and Robin who make cameo appearances in ‘If You Want to Make God Laugh’.

    I absolutely loved writing this book and I really hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

    (The five star review is meant to be a joke, by the way )

    For fans of ‘Hum If You Don’t Know the Words’ who were hoping for the story to continue... this isn’t a sequel but look out for Beauty and Robin who make cameo appearances in ‘If You Want to Make God Laugh’.

    I absolutely loved writing this book and I really hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

    (The five star review is meant to be a joke, by the way 😉)

  • Jennifer Blankfein

    Loved it so much! Photos for this review and other reviews and recommendations on

    .

    I loved the author’s debut, Hum if you Don’t Know the Words, and feel the same about this wonderful upcoming novel out this summer. The beauty and strength of the South African women will stick with you…PREORDER your copy today!

    If You Want to Make God Laugh is the fast moving and compelling story of three ladies, Zodwa, Ruth and Delilah, set in South Africa. Easy to read

    Loved it so much! Photos for this review and other reviews and recommendations on

    .

    I loved the author’s debut, Hum if you Don’t Know the Words, and feel the same about this wonderful upcoming novel out this summer. The beauty and strength of the South African women will stick with you…PREORDER your copy today!

    If You Want to Make God Laugh is the fast moving and compelling story of three ladies, Zodwa, Ruth and Delilah, set in South Africa. Easy to read chapters alternate points of view:

    Zodwa is young girl, raped, pregnant, living in a squatter camp and ashamed of her romantic feelings of infatuation with her close girl friend. When her baby is born, she was taken from her and later the same day her mother dies, leaving her alone, desperate and feeling lost.

    Delilah was raped when she was a teenager and was forces to leave her child at the convent she was excommunicated from due to her pregnancy. She spent her years repenting while working at an orphanage, alone and lost.

    After a career of stripping and feeling unhappy in her relationship, Delilah’s older sister, Ruth left her husband feeling sad and regretful for never being able to have a child. Ruth and Delilah hadn’t spoken to each other since they were young.

    The estranged sisters meet at their parent’s empty house, Ruth intending to sell it and Delilah hoping to live there. Tension runs high between the siblings, but after a newborn black baby was left on the doorstop, Ruth realizes her calling is to adopt this child and give him the life he deserves. Delilah is not in agreement and so much pain rises to the surface due to the past. As the sisters work to break down walls and understand each other’s emotions, they are faced with prejudice and harassment from the neighbors. The sisters decide to secure the house and hire a live in maid to help with the baby.

    If You Want to Make God Laugh is a masterfully written emotional journey of three women where everyone is either running to or from something as they try to find peace and understand in their calling. It is a testament to the incredible strength women have and what lengths mothers will go to to protect and care for their children.

    Q and A with author Bianca Marais

    How did you come up with the title If You Want to Make God Laugh? The words appear once in the text – do you write the book first and then choose the title out of the text or do you fit in the words of the title after the book is written? Was this the same process for Hum?

    HUM was originally going to be called ‘It Aint Over Till the Fat Lady Sings’ because I envisioned Mama Fatty, the shebeen queen of Soweto, singing at the end. But that changed during the writing of the book when Robin’s aunt Edith tells her to hum if she doesn’t know the words to a hymn at her parents’ funeral. That line stayed with me because it was such a great metaphor for what the characters were going through.

    With LAUGH, the title stuck from the beginning because of that saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” which really sums up what all three of these women are going through. It’s always a thrill for me to write the title into the book because I love discovering the title when I’m reading a novel.

    It comes clear while reading the novel that for your characters, having ideas and making plans for the future have minimal impact on how things turn out. Do you believe in fate? How much control do you think we have of our future?

    Oh wow, this is a tough question.

    I think we have a lot of control over our lives in that the decisions we make today will influence the way things play out for us down the line. Work hard and you’ll generally reap the benefits. Be a kind person and it will definitely have a knock-on effect in both your life and in the lives of others. Take care of your health and you’ll live longer than if you treated your body like a garbage can.

    But there are definitely things in life that we can’t possibly see coming: accidents, illnesses, bad luck. And this is the part that’s tough for me as an A-type Capricorn to accept: that there are certain things in our lives that are completely beyond our control. And that we can be good people and do good things, and we can plan and save and do everything right and still have tragedy strike. But even when the unimaginable happens, we then still have agency in terms of how we move forward and how we handle that situation which is what the women in my story show: how to keep going when the worst has happened.

    In terms of believing in fate: it’s hard not to believe that some things are fated because they seem so improbable and yet they happen regardless. I want to believe in fate and that some things are meant to be.

    AIDS was an epidemic in South Africa at the time of the story and in it, the white people seemed to put blame and shame on the black women and children…what about the black men? Did we just not see it in the story because the black men did not infiltrate the white people’s world in the same way that black women maids and housekeepers did?

    Black families were torn apart during apartheid with most black men being forced to work in gold mines and black women having to work as maids in the city. Husbands and wives got separated from their children and lived miles and miles apart from one another, often only seeing one another once a year. This led to the disintegration of the black family and allowed the perfect conditions for the spreading the HIV virus. Also, many black men refused to wear condoms despite having multiple sexual partners which put women at greater risk.

    Since most of the black men worked in gold mines or as laborers, they weren’t a part of white people’s lives like black women were. These were the women caring for white people’s children, living in their homes and being a huge part of their daily existence. When they began to get sick, white people were forced to take notice of the epidemic and focused that attention on the people who were closest to them and therefore at most risk of passing the virus onto them.

    The saying Blood is Thicker Than Water means relationships built through choices will never be as strong as family bonds. The bonds your characters have seem to support this theory; Delilah and Ruth slowly reconcile through the course of the book (so skillfully written, I might add, that at first they were so at odds, and without realizing it, little by little they developed a wonderful, supportive relationship right before our eyes), Zodwa and Mandla felt connected the moment they met, Delilah and Daniel were drawn together virtually although they never met. How do you feel about this?

    Family bonds are incredibly strong in the story in all the ways you mentioned but I also believe that friendships and the relationships we choose can be just as strong if not stronger. I believe that it’s hardship and struggle that truly puts a relationship to the test, and it’s in overcoming adversity that true bonds are forged whether they’re familial or of another nature. Something I find fascinating is that often the people who are meant to love us most are the ones who can hurt us the deepest which we see playing out with Ruth and Delilah. For me, the important thing is choice. Choosing to work on a relationship and to be there for someone through the difficulties, and choosing to have them in your life.

    How did you come up with the rustic home environment for Zodwa?

    A lot of Zodwa’s experience in the squatter camp was inspired by my ten years of volunteering in squatter camps in Soweto and the rest of Johannesburg. Here are some photos from that time.

    P1010061.JPG P1010237.JPG P1010024.JPG P1010264.JPG P1010064.JPG P1010269.JPG P1010271.JPG

    It was a joy to see Beauty and Robin from Hum weaved into this story…did you start this new book with them in mind with the story growing out of them or did you add them in after?

    I started writing the sequel to HUM which I never got to finish, and so it’s always been very clear in my mind what Robin and Beauty were doing in the 90s. When I started writing this book, I very much wanted to incorporate their stories in this one but in an organic way so that if readers hadn’t read HUM, they wouldn’t find Robin and Beauty’s presence strange. It was lovely to get to spend time with them again and to give HUM readers a glimpse into their futures.

    All of your characters have lost so much. They are all searching for something…Ruth wants to fulfill her lifelong dream to be a mother, Delilah wants to connect with Daniel, Leleti wanted to find her son, Zodwa wants to be a mother to Mandla…they also have secrets from suicide attempts, to a secret child to sexual orientation. These women are so well developed with a past, present and hopes for the future; do you have a formula you use or a certain process to create them?

    Thank you. That’s a wonderful compliment!

    I don’t have a formula, per se. I always start with characters. They come to me before the plot or the storyline comes to me. I see these characters as real people who are struggling with something and that then forms the basis of the story. I write to get to know them better and by the end of the book, I always know so much more about my characters than what finds its way onto the page. In that way, they become real to me. If I’m not suffering and laughing and crying with them while I write, then I’m not connected to them and how can I expect my reader to be?

    If this were to become a movie, who would you want to play the main characters?

    When I write, I often picture characters as actors or people I know, etc. They were pictured as follows for LAUGH though they obviously couldn’t all play the characters now:

    Ruth: Debbie Reynolds

    Delilah: Dame Judie Dench

    Zodwa: Lupita Nyong’o

    Riaan: James Brolin

    Vince: John Goodman

    Leleti: Lupita Nyong’o’s mother, Dorothy Nyong’o

    Thembeka: A young Leleti Khumalo (a South African actress)

    Here is what my vision board looked like while writing LAUGH:

    image1.jpeg

    What are you working on next?

    In a complete change of genre for me, I’m working on a psychological thriller. I thought I’d try my writing chops at murder, sex and mayhem. I’m having a lot of fun! LOL.

  • BernLuvsBooks (Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas)

    All I can say is, WOW! These women captured me completely. This is a story full of both sorrow and heart. The vulnerability of these women will tug at your heartstrings. They suffer, endure loss after loss and still stand up strong - refusing to crumble and fold.

    Bianca Marais doesn't shy away from big issues such as the stigma of HIV, racism, homophobia,

    All I can say is, WOW! These women captured me completely. This is a story full of both sorrow and heart. The vulnerability of these women will tug at your heartstrings. They suffer, endure loss after loss and still stand up strong - refusing to crumble and fold.

    Bianca Marais doesn't shy away from big issues such as the stigma of HIV, racism, homophobia, religious corruption and the abuse of power over women. She has woven these issues with compassion and honesty into a moving story that follows the lives of three women and the little boy they all come to love.

  • Travel.with.a.book

    There's no doubt that Bianca is one of my favourite debut Author so reading an ARC of her second book is a really indescribable feeling and for that I want to thank Jordan from Putnam and the Author for providing me with this wonderful book!

    If You Want To Make God Laugh takes place in South Africa during the late '90s and the Author's portraying is so fascinating!

    .

    The prose that you'll read in this novel is really intriguing filled with some interesting topics which include rasicm, the

    There's no doubt that Bianca is one of my favourite debut Author so reading an ARC of her second book is a really indescribable feeling and for that I want to thank Jordan from Putnam and the Author for providing me with this wonderful book!

    If You Want To Make God Laugh takes place in South Africa during the late '90s and the Author's portraying is so fascinating!

    .

    The prose that you'll read in this novel is really intriguing filled with some interesting topics which include rasicm, the corruption in church and some other ones that I'm not going to spoil! Bianca has a really unique way to blow our minds and dwell us in her fantastic love and hope story! Bianca has merged survival and strength in a perfect way to bring us a unique experience from her fascinating characters!

    .

    This is not my first book from Bianca to end it with tears so I wasn't surprised to wet the last pages but it really is worth reading and I can't wait for June so you can read it too! Also the cover is so beautiful and glamorous and it's making my shelf even more beautiful! A very interesting fact for this book is that it references back to Bianca's first book Hum If You Don't Know The Words, not that it's a sequel but you can learn more from some characters!

    .

    I'm so happy to have Bianca my favourite Author because she is so powerful elaborating a very intriguing and hard topic and still can manage to bring the best from it! The characters were so enjoyable and every act from the Author was reasonable and mature and that's a very important part from a book to read, the book has kept me captivating and the whole book has put me through tears and laughs all the journey and I highly recommend you to pre-order this wonderful book!

    .

    I loved the three main characters Zowda, Delilah and Ruth, their personalities were very interesting and different but surviving their problems was a really intriguing journey to dive and highly recommended!

  • Faith

    This book takes place around 20 years after the events in “Hum if You Don’t Know the Words” and it shares some of the same characters. However, it is a standalone story about 3 women, each of whom has had a difficult experience with motherhood. Coincidentally, this is the second book I finished today in which a mother can not claim her relationship to her child.

    This book was sometimes moving (although it also sometimes felt manipulative and sentimental and got sort of tear jerky at the end) and

    This book takes place around 20 years after the events in “Hum if You Don’t Know the Words” and it shares some of the same characters. However, it is a standalone story about 3 women, each of whom has had a difficult experience with motherhood. Coincidentally, this is the second book I finished today in which a mother can not claim her relationship to her child.

    This book was sometimes moving (although it also sometimes felt manipulative and sentimental and got sort of tear jerky at the end) and introduced a lot of issues including AIDS, rape, homosexuality, canned lion hunts and white supremacist Afrikaners. One of the most touching moments to me was only tangentially related to the main story. A 94 year old woman, after standing in line all day to vote for the first time after the end of Apartheid, is turned away because she has no birth certificate and was therefore unable to get an identity card. Ultimately, I preferred the author’s prior book which seemed much more focused and taught me more about the political situation in South Africa, but I’ve rounded 3.5 stars up to 4.

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    If You Want to Make God Laugh is the story of three strong women. When we meet Zodwa, she’s seventeen and pregnant, living in a squatter camp outside of Johannesburg. People were living in these camps to look for work and escape peril, only to find South Africa on the verge of a civil war and perhaps more poverty than from

    If You Want to Make God Laugh is the story of three strong women. When we meet Zodwa, she’s seventeen and pregnant, living in a squatter camp outside of Johannesburg. People were living in these camps to look for work and escape peril, only to find South Africa on the verge of a civil war and perhaps more poverty than from where they’d come.

    Ruth is a socialite struggling with mental health and an estranged marriage.

    Delilah is a former nun, who left the clergy in disgrace, and is working in an orphanage.

    These women’s lives connect, and the story blossoms when Ruth and Delilah are gifted a newborn baby.

    There are many, many things here I can tell you I loved. Marais’ writing is like butter, so silky smooth, and she quickly draws you in with her impeccable storytelling. She hooked me to each main character quickly, with their relatable, likable, and vulnerable qualities.

    I didn’t know much previously about this post-Apartheid time in South Africa. It led to a great discussion with my father as he shared what he remembered from his own reading and awareness during that time. Racial disparities, the AIDS crisis, and all of the civil unrest. It’s hard to imagine this was a time in recent history and the grave injustices that occurred.

    At the heart of the story, though, is these women sharing messages of what it takes to be a mother and how love defines us all. You don’t have to be a fan of historical fiction to love this story. The 90s weren’t that long ago. I think there’s something for everyone here in this beautiful book!

    I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

    My reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • Angela M

    Like her debut novel,

    , this second one by Bianca Marais also has a lot to offer. With the backdrop of post apartheid South Africa as Nelson Mandela is elected president, the political environment of the 1990’s is reflected. It depicts the socioeconomic and racial divide of whites and blacks, the have and the have nots, the Aids epidemic, abuses by a Catholic priest, the stigma of homosexuality. It’s about the lives of three women whose lives are connected in a way

    Like her debut novel,

    , this second one by Bianca Marais also has a lot to offer. With the backdrop of post apartheid South Africa as Nelson Mandela is elected president, the political environment of the 1990’s is reflected. It depicts the socioeconomic and racial divide of whites and blacks, the have and the have nots, the Aids epidemic, abuses by a Catholic priest, the stigma of homosexuality. It’s about the lives of three women whose lives are connected in a way that will both break your heart and put it back together.

    The first person narratives of three women in relatively short chapters had me drawn in from the beginning to each of their stories, which slowly unfold. Delilah, an ex nun and relief worker and Ruth, an ex stripper who is going through a third divorce are sisters. Both are returning to their home carrying burdens of their pasts and are in need for a place to live . They have been estranged for years and the tension between them is evident from the first time they see each other. Zowda, a pregnant teenage girl is trying to change her life, going to school , but has returned to the shack at the settlement where she lives with her dying mother. Each of them have things that haunt them and it’s very slow going in the middle until what has happened to each of them is divulged, but the heart of the story is what brings Zowda and the two sisters together. It’s a good story, a story of what it means to be a mother, a story of how people’s lives connect and by the last third I was as engaged as I was in the beginning. It’s beautifully written and I was moved to tears by the end. If you enjoyed Hum, you’ll love seeing an appearance by Beauty and Robin. If you enjoyed Marais’s first novel, I would certainly recommend this one.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from G.P. Putnam’s Sons through Edelweiss.

  • Katie B

    Heartbreaking and beautiful. I've read the author's other book,

    and with both books she does an excellent job at weaving historical facts into a story with complex characters dealing with heavy issues. While I enjoyed both books, I think this one is slightly better. If you haven't read anything by this author before, I strongly recommend giving her a try.

    This is the story of three women living in post-Apartheid South Africa in the 1990s. Seventeen-year-old Zodwa

    Heartbreaking and beautiful. I've read the author's other book,

    and with both books she does an excellent job at weaving historical facts into a story with complex characters dealing with heavy issues. While I enjoyed both books, I think this one is slightly better. If you haven't read anything by this author before, I strongly recommend giving her a try.

    This is the story of three women living in post-Apartheid South Africa in the 1990s. Seventeen-year-old Zodwa has grown up living in poverty and her dreams of escaping it might not come true as she is now pregnant. On the surface, Ruth might appear to have it all, with her good looks and money, but she is feeling like her world is crashing down on her right before her eyes. Delilah, a disgraced former nun, is devastated when she hears news about someone who is very important to her. Their lives are somehow going to be linked to one another but you will have to read the book to find out how.

    The story switches back and forth between the women and I can't single out a favorite because they each had an important story to tell. There were good emotional moments with each character. I don't want to give too much away about the book but I do think the setting of South Africa during this time period really enhanced the story as there was certainly a lot going on in that country in the 1990s. Highly recommend if you enjoy historical fiction and/or stories featuring strong female characters.

    This was the last book I got to read for the First to Read program now that it's ending. I'm so thankful I got the opportunity to read and review over 100 books during the time I participated. I was introduced to many authors including this one so I'm sad to see it go.

    I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.

  • marilyn

    What a beautiful, heartbreaking book, of three very different women, brought together because of need and the love of a little black baby. Two of those women are white sisters and the other woman is his mother, who had her baby snatched from her at birth, because her mother loved her so much and wanted the best for her daughter's baby.

    The book takes place in the 1990s Johannesburg, in post-Apartheid South Africa, during the raging and misunderstood AIDs epidemic, and as Nelson Mandela begins

    What a beautiful, heartbreaking book, of three very different women, brought together because of need and the love of a little black baby. Two of those women are white sisters and the other woman is his mother, who had her baby snatched from her at birth, because her mother loved her so much and wanted the best for her daughter's baby.

    The book takes place in the 1990s Johannesburg, in post-Apartheid South Africa, during the raging and misunderstood AIDs epidemic, and as Nelson Mandela begins his presidency. Each woman has hit rock bottom, with black Zodwa searching mortuaries and then orphanages for her missing baby, white Ruth having destroyed her relationship with probably the only man who really loved her, and Ruth's sister, Delilah finding out her lost to her forever son has been shot in the head. Delilah and Ruth could not be more different and after a forty year estrangement face healing an impossible to mend relationship.

    So much happens during this book and we get to learn about each woman with chapters from each of their viewpoints. Much of the book concerns little Mandla, who each woman loves in different and similar ways. But there is so much more here and in so many ways each very different woman has had similar experiences. All three women have secrets in their past that eventually get revealed to the others and those revelations bring understanding and compassion for what each woman has endured.

    I'm not even coming close to touching all the trials of these women's lives, what they have endured and continue to endure along with the people of this time and country. If you read this book, be sure to read the afterward, which gives even more meaning to this touching story. So much of this is a love story...a story of so many different kinds of love.

    Thank you to PENGUIN GROUP Putnam and NetGalley for this ARC.

  • Jenna

    This book has a massive overload of saccharine!

    The comedienne Margaret Cho once quipped, "I have no maternal instinct. I am barren. I ovulate sand". I can relate. That is me. Sand in the ovaries. Give me a non-human baby and it awakens the mother in me. Show me a human baby and I want to swallow handfuls of birth control pills. Babies and me? Nope. Not happening. I initially thought I didn't like this book solely because there was too much oohing and aahing over a human baby. I

    This book has a massive overload of saccharine!

    The comedienne Margaret Cho once quipped, "I have no maternal instinct. I am barren. I ovulate sand". I can relate. That is me. Sand in the ovaries. Give me a non-human baby and it awakens the mother in me. Show me a human baby and I want to swallow handfuls of birth control pills. Babies and me? Nope. Not happening. I initially thought I didn't like this book solely because there was too much oohing and aahing over a human baby. I thought that if I could just get through the beginning, surely the baby would grow up (they do, don't they?) and we could stop with all the maternal sentiment. Well, it turned out that was the least of the problems I had with this book. This book is soap opera melodrama on speed. Or crack or

    .

    I loved this author's

    , 5 stars all the way, and that's the only reason I stuck with this one. Half-way through when I realised I was NOT going to ever feel the love with this one, I figured I might as well just finish it. Why? Why did I

    that to myself??? Ugh, it was awful.

    Set in South Africa during Apartheid, two middle-aged white women move back to their family home. One is a disgraced and excommunicated nun; the other's husband just informed her he wants a divorce. She doesn't immediately run home though. First she takes two sleeping pills to pretend she's trying to commit suicide so this husband will see how much he will miss her if he loses her. She calls him, swallows the pills, and falls asleep in the tub, almost drowning. TWO sleeping pills??? Really? What the hell kind of sleeping pills are they?? Sleeping pills for elephants?? So I should have known in the very beginning how unbelievable this book would be.

    Moving along..... Ruth (the almost-drowned-in-the-tub-by-taking-elephant-sleeping-pills sister) has lost all her money and has no choice but to return to her family home, hoping she can sell it. When she gets there, she finds that Delilah (the excommunicated-nun-but-much-more-likable sister (ha, ha!) has also returned home. These two women are total opposites, getting on each other's nerves at every turn.

    Next we have Zowda, a young Zulu girl who is pregnant. She lives with her dying mother in a squatter camp and after giving birth, conveniently for the story, falls asleep. Her mother then runs off with the baby, delivering her to -- you guessed it -- Delilah and Ruth. She tells Zowda the baby is dead, and then proceeds to die herself.

    So that is the set up for this story and it

    have been wonderful had the author not felt the need to over-dramatize things and turn it into a slathering mess of sentimentality. Just about everything that occurs in this book is so over-the-top unbelievable. My eyes were constantly exercised, rolling back in my head at just about every page. And the contradictions!

    There's no way to talk (ok, "bitch" is a more accurate word) about them without giving away key parts of the story so only read the spoilers if you don't plan to read the book (which if your taste in books is anything like mine, you will be wise to avoid).

    The whole book is just silly. It contains the maximum of drama and tragedy, working over-time to bring the reader to tears. I guess I cry sand as well as ovulate it because I shed not one tear reading this book. I couldn't feel a thing for the characters because this book just

    and the believability factor was close to nil.

    Obviously based on others' ratings, I am in the minority with this book. However, consider yourself warned if you decide to read it. My fiancee had to stop me when I was telling her about the book because it's just TOO FREAKING MUCH!

    I originally gave this one star but am feeling generous this evening and upped it to two. The reason for that is because the author writes well. The story might suck donkey balls and I could hardly wait to be finished with it, but hey, at least it's written well.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

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