Life under Robert Mugabe’s brutal government takes center stage in this harrowing novel of Zimbabwe.
Seventeen-year-old Bukhosi Mlambo has been missing for more than a week, since his disappearance during a political rally. His parents, Abednego and Mama Agnes, desperate to find him, have accepted the emotional support and help of their tenant, Zamani, the unreliable narrator through whom the story is told. Zamani, an orphan, feeling a “prick of opportunity,” takes advantage of their desperation and endeavors to replace Bukhosi and go from “surrogate son” to “son” through a variety of manipulative acts. As Zamani, who seems to live by the philosophy "that it’s not what's true that matters, but what you can make true,” unscrupulously attempts to cultivate an intimacy with the Mlambos, what results is a novel of confessions—some given freely, others pried through alcohol, drugs, and other means—family secrets, and an unflinching portrait of life in Zimbabwe before, during, and immediately after the Rhodesian Bush War. The wrath of the military commander dubbed Black Jesus, the Gukurahundi massacres—Tshuma’s (Shadows, 2012) sprawling debut novel delves into these atrocities and others, and that history at times overwhelms the motivations and interiority of the central characters. Nonetheless, Tshuma delineates a rich and complicated tale about the importance of history (“Always, you must be looking back over your shoulder, to see what history is busy plotting for your future”), the price of revolution, the pursuit of freedom, and the remaking of one’s self.
A multilayered, twisting, and surprising whirlwind of a novel that is as impressive as it is heartbreaking.