The sun begins to set and twilight falls over the Cape Town suburb of Salt River. The year is 1960, the year of the Sharpeville massacre. Three friends, Ainey, Haroun and Cassius, comrades in arms and merry pranksters, make a discovery that changes their lives. Mired in their troubled families, they valiantly struggle through their childhood.
With the help of a mysterious yet powerful woman they confront an awful truth that forever changes their lives... The prologue of By the Fading Light sets up the story by an unidentified narrator who, it is later discovered, is one of the three main characters, now grown up, reflecting on the past.
A young boy, Amin Gabriels, disappears, an event that creates fear and anxiety in the community, especially for his friends, the main characters, who are three eleven-year-old boys, Ainey, Haroun and Cassius.
The boys' adventures offer a poignant, compelling but also humorous glimpse into the world from their youthful perspectives. Ainey lives with his fussy grandmother and his authoritarian father who blames him for his mother's death. Haroun lives with his depressed mother and bigamist father. Cassius lives with his sister and snobbish mother who wishes that she were white. Through these and other minor characters, a mysterious yet powerful older woman, a police officer, and a murderer, the reader encounters a spirited and robust community.
With its elements of historical fiction, literary realism and absurdist humour, By the Fading Light weaves together themes of troubled families, vibrant Muslim culture, South African politics, the resilience of children, loss of innocence and coming of age. If only a young boy had not taken the long way home on a cold winter's day.
If only he had gone straight home, things might have been different. But he did not, and events in the tight-knit community of Salt River take a turn that inspire fear...