The Theory of Light

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Virginia Tech

This manuscript is written from the perspective of thirteen-year-old Adrian Matthiessen, who arrives in mid-2008 in Bethlehem, South Africa at a clinic in the township of Bohlokong where his mother is volunteering. Adrian is witness to an act of magic surrounding an orphan girl who arrives at the clinic; an event that many use to label her as a pariah. Deeply troubled by this, Adrian begins to investigate who this strange girl is by seeking out the stories of the Basotho, and by befriending a volunteer medical student from France, the grandson of the clinic's founder, and a South African girl he grows attracted to. This investigation reveals the troubled history of the founder who fought in Angola, a history that has now brought danger upon the clinic and its residents. Adrian also discovers that this investigation becomes a part of his own process of grieving over a recent family tragedy.

The Theory of Light draws much of its material from the rich history of the region, as well as from the traditional myths and practices of the Basotho people. In many ways the manuscript bridges two worlds: one that is struggling to cope with globalization, and one that strives to retain cultural and historical traditions. This bridge places Adrian in a limbo of trying to understand magic, historical conflict, personal loss, first-love, and what it is like to be an outsider in South Africa.