Two beautiful novels that center on the adventures Toloki, the original Professional Mourner:
Ways of Dying (set in South Africa)
Toloki's life in post-apartheid South Africa, during the political chaos that followed the changing of the guard. We learn of his origins, his development of a life philosophy, and the invention of his profession: Professional Mourner. Although, true to its title, the novel is teeming with stories of death and struggle, it is ultimately life affirming. Toloki is truly the master of the ways of living, even though he sees his primary responsiblity to be proper mourning for those who have died.
Cion (set in South Eastern Ohio--Athens County)
Toloki is taken from South Africa by the mysterious sciologist and is deposited in Athens, Ohio, following the 2004 Presidential campaign. He becomes enmeshed in the lives of a local family and, through them, learns of the complexities of identity and race and family in a rural town still tied to the history of slavery. Toloki's story of living in the present time is paralleled by the story of two runaway slaves who, using an encoded quilt still owned in the present day by his host family, try to make their way to freedom.
I love Mda's writing for many reasons, but mostly for his characterization and his ability to so vividly describe setting. It is so easy to visualize the people and places in these novels, from sights and smells to mannerisms and dialogue. Toloki is easily one of my favorite characters in fiction.