Marli Roode began to write her debut novel at Manchester University's Centre for New Writing after achieving her BA and MA in Philosophy and Literature, but the thought process behind it began much earlier, when she was growing up in South Africa. Her book is the high-stakes story of a father-daughter relationship, Call it Dog.
Jo, a South-African-born-UK-convert, travels back to her home, a township called Alex. She returns to report on the riots breaking out there and in several other similar townships near Johannesburg, and also, although she struggles to admit it to herself, to see her father Nico after a panicked phone call from him calls her home. Jo and Nico haven’t spoken in three and a half years and he is, to say the least, a difficult man to have as a father. Nico asks Jo to help him clear his name of a decades-old murder, and the two set off on a road trip into the dark heart of South Africa’s recent past.
Jo is a compelling guide to have on the trip. She is grappling with a lot of issues at the same time: her new life as a self-made journalist and her exit from Africa. Roode’s writing through Jo explores what it means to have an adopted home that you do not feel fully part of while the place where you grew up no longer seems like yours: the feeling of being a foreigner everywhere.
An extract from Call it Dog won the 2009 'Is There A Novelist In The House?' competition at the Manchester Literature Festival and the fully finished novel is an articulate work that asks whether one is allowed to feel nostalgia for a place they willingly abandoned for somewhere else, or whether the action of disowning somewhere means you can no longer call it home.
Call it Dog was in the running for our 2013 First Book Award.