Lalibela’s Wise Man: Review By Bhekimpilo Dungeni

Lalibela's Wise Man Cover Photo


There is an excellent play of words in Lalibela’s Wise Man, yet the writer doesn’t shy away from building an evenly fast-paced and catchy narrative. It grips one’s attention from the first Chapter; with a clear, concise description of the main-character Christian and his unfolding journey towards self-discovery. The beauty of the story is that it’s a journey from the word-go, and the reader is left with no choice but fixated to this page-turner that takes him from America to Ethiopia; in a splendid display of disparities between the two countries.


As a reader, one gets to enjoy a front-row seat into Christian’s life as the narrator tows him out of one solemn setting to the next. At the very beginning, immediately after losing his father, he discovers he has been left out of the will (another cutting blow to his ego, and reputation as the renowned favourite son). He is quickly kicked out of the business and their home by his brothers; with nothing else to his name but a small golden box gift from his late father. These events not only leave the reader feeling remorseful for the young man, but it creates a craving, and need to know more about Christian’s life and whether he gets to turn his life around.


A somewhat inadvertent trip to Ethiopia seems to have all the answers that he needs, and his most-recent gloomy past suddenly gets a silver lining. After meeting an old Monk at the top of the mountain in Lalibela, Christian is taken through numerous expeditions that test his steadfastness, commitment and sheer will-power. Furthermore, as new as the experience is to him, it teaches him a great deal about Africa; outside of the urban lifestyle he had become accustomed to living and growing up in America.

“The second day, we went hunting because I wanted to teach you that as wood is for fire, courage is for greatness. If you are bold, you can defeat those who are ten times stronger than you. I wanted you to learn that running from your challenges is more dangerous than facing them. Even when retreating from a lion, do not turn your back to it. Never turn your back on your enemies, or they will attack you suddenly. Fear increases the size of your opponents; courage increases your chance for victory. Action is the antidote for fear. A step towards what you fear is a step towards liberty.


“Courage enables you to achieve your full potential. Cowards don’t like taking risks, but all great achievements are born out of taking risks.”

“The seventh day, I made you eat what you hate the most—onions and spicy food. The lesson was: do what you love, what you hate, and whatever it takes to succeed. On your journey to success, you will be forced to do many things you dislike…”

Above are some of the ‘virtues’ passed on to Christian by the Monk that apply in everyday lives, where one can achieve a great deal out of hard work and knowing how to cooperate with others and the world around them.

matshona photo
Matshona Dhliwayo

There are a number of great twists in the book, which further reveal the author’s versatility in enchanting the readers and creating scenes that leave them wanting more. The Monk learns that Christian is an avid collector of wristwatches, yet he gives away his Rolex to another man. He’s also well aware that Christian doesn’t like onions or spicy food, yet he pushes him to eat a plateful of spicy food and tomato/onion gravy. The major unexpected twist in the book is when it turns out Christian’s mother (who he never met/knew), is buried at the monastery, and the old Monk is his grandfather. His whole existence begins to make sense once again, and his father’s wish that Christian comes to the monastery suddenly makes sense.

In the book’s epilogue, we see our protagonist happier once more. He has started his own business away from family influence and now contributes meaningfully to charity work; using some of the money he got from the Monk to build schools in Ethiopia.

Overall, Lalibela’s Wise Man is a pleasant read, which hoards meaningful lessons for every individual; irrespective of their background or upbringing. It teaches patience, virtuousness and overall morality. It leaves one with a sense of enlightenment, motivation and significant ‘virtues’ one can carry with them in their everyday livelihoods.  


Lalibela’s Wise Man can be purchased on  Amazon.