A young black woman in Khayelitsha, South Africa, falls in love with another woman in this lyrical work of contemporary fiction.
Neo has always been drawn to music, so when the hosts of UmziRadio, a radio show she loves, are scheduled to appear at a bar nearby, she is compelled to go even though she knows she risks angering her disapproving and strict parents. She is instantly smitten with Tale, the singer for one of the performing bands, and her believably self-conscious and fumbling pining gives way to a sweetly depicted experience of first love and sex that brims with warmth. Though she’s had a best friend, Janet, for years, it is among Tale and her band mates that Neo finds actual acceptance and begins to gain a sense of herself. In short chapters punctuated by expressive sentence fragments that convey the inner workings of Neo’s thoughts, readers will experience these feelings along with her, and this emotional resonance creates an effect that becomes much more painful as the novel builds to a devastating crescendo. In an afterword, author Benwell speaks directly to the privilege his white, British background affords and provides a list of LGBTQ support resources in the U.S., U.K., and South Africa.
The denouement gathers together some strings of hope; this is an achingly real, heartbreaking, and important read. (Fiction. 14-adult)