Lately I have been listening to a series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith – his books about the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency. I highly recommend them, especially in the audible form. The reader, Lisette Lecat, is remarkable in her ability to create a unique voice for each of the dozens of characters. Delightful!
The leading characters of the series are Mma Precious Ramotswe, the founder of the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency, and Mma Grace Makutsi, her assistant. As I get to know these two women, I find myself thinking of them as illustrating two ways each of us might choose to respond to unpleasant individuals.
Grace Makutsi can be counted on to judge most other individuals harshly. She reacts quickly to things that are said or to others’ actions, never giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. She comes from a place of insecurity, sadness, and lack and has worked hard to earn her place in the Botswana community.
Precious Ramotswe, on the other hand, is astounding in her ability to see the good in even the most despicable characters. Every time I think, “Surely she can’t see any good in this person,” she does. She comes from a place of security, having had an adored and loving father who is now “late,” (meaning he has died). Though she made some regrettable decisions that resulted in pain and tragedy in her life, she is open to seeing the goodness in even the man who physically abused her in her first marriage.
It’s surprising how inspiring it can be to read a fictional account of a richly developed individual who is able to view all of life, including herself, with compassion. The character of Precious is fictional but utterly believable, so when she lovingly gives a gift to her abusive former husband and genuinely wishes him well, even in the face of his latest attempt to bully her, I find myself believing that such whole hearted compassion might be possible for me some day.
While I behave in a reactionary and impulsively thoughtless way more than I would like, much like Grace Makutsi who is fond of calling another character a “warthog,” I see the potential for something better in myself. I love fiction that entertains and lifts one up at the same time. These books do just that for me! Try them, and see what you think.
About the author of these books:
What an interesting individual McCall Smith must be! According to the list on his Wikipedia entry, he is author or co-author of at least 92 books. Some of those are children’s books, some are adult fiction, and some are academic texts that are mostly in the fields of law and medical ethics.
In addition to his career as an author, he has taught law in Botswana and Scotland, has served on an international bioethics committee of UNESCO, and has received an honorary doctorate, among other honors.
If that were not enough, he is also an amateur bassoonist and co-founder of The Really Terrible Orchestra for which he wrote the libretto for their first production, a version of Macbeth set among a troop of baboons.
Wouldn’t you love to meet him? I certainly would! His creativity and excellence in so many areas makes me think of some folks with ADHD who are multiply gifted and accomplish many things after they learn how to work with their creative brains and how to fill in the gaps where perhaps some executive functions never fully developed.