A story of one girl’s attempts to understand and abide by the unspoken rules of familial loyalty in a post-apartheid South African town.
Molope (The Mending Season, 2005, etc.) introduces us to Basimane, the first son of a South African family, through the voice of his sister, Naledi. When, as an adult, Naledi sees a woman from her youth, a tiny scar on the woman’s face kick-starts reveries of her childhood and the one fateful night that changed little for her brother and parents but everything for Naledi and her closest friend, Ole, who hid her sexuality in their community. Naledi and Basimane lead affluent lives, embedded in a society fraught with issues of racism and classism as well as intergenerational gendered expectations. When their father’s business success enables them to move up in society Basimane continues his close association with his old friends, the township boys, much to his mother’s chagrin. Meanwhile Naledi oscillates between nostalgia and embracing the social distance her mother imposes. She closely watches her older brother’s violent treatment of women, attempting to reconcile his hypocritical behavior as he simultaneously seeks justice for his best friend’s mother, incarcerated for self-defense in the face of domestic violence.
This poignant novel presents us with a girl on the cusp of womanhood desperately trying to navigate the dissonant sociocultural imperatives placed on men and women in her society. (Fiction. 13-adult)