Seventeen-year-old Chanda keeps seeing a zebra—her sacred totem that represents her kinship to others who share it.
This, combined with her frequent lapses in memory, make her parents consider institutionalization in a hospital. Chanda turns to an aunt who advises her to go back to her family’s village to get the answers and cure she needs. The journey proves more taxing than Chanda anticipated, and going from her privileged urban life in Harare, Zimbabwe, to rural Gumindoga is more than Chanda feels she can bear; she wants to leave almost immediately. However, it seems destiny has plans for her, and she is again reminded of how little she can control when she tries to leave. Chanda's story touches on the duality of and relationship between modern Western vs. holistic traditional approaches and attitudes to mental health and medical conditions. The novel would have benefited from a better developed plot and characters whose relationships exhibited greater depth, both of which would have made the conclusion feel more climactic. The uneven pacing results in insufficient attention being paid to scenes that bear relevance to Chanda’s problems. The central themes—that we are more connected than we may realize and that unlearned history is bound to repeat itself—do not feel fully fleshed out. Chanda and her family are Shona.
Despite a promising hook and some interesting core ingredients, this book fails to deliver on its full potential. (Fiction. 13-adult)