This debut novel focuses on two Zimbabwean teenagers, Shamiso and Tanyaradzwa, battling their personal demons. Shamiso’s father was a political journalist, intent on exposing corruption and murdered by the government as a result. Tanyaradzwa is fighting to survive the aggressive cancer which threatens to take her life.
The two girls meet in a private boarding school which is used by the author as a microcosm of the country’s ills, thus making them both personal and national. Shamiso seeks to isolate herself in order to protect her identity but Tanyaradzwa’s determination to forge a friendship between them slowly breaks down Shamiso’s reserve, opening her again to the compassion and empathy which she had banished from her life after the death of her father.
There is a real attempt to introduce the reader to the political dysfunction in Zimbabwe, as Shamiso realises that her father’s friend Jonathan is taking up the baton which her father carried. He succeeds in exposing the government but loses his life in the process. However, this germinates a seed of hope in the narrative-others will fight on to see justice done and some of them will succeed. This is paralled by Tanyaradzwa’s struggles as she survive a dangerous operation to remove the cancer which is about to kill her.
There is much to admire in this book-there is sometimes a rawness in the written style as Tavengerwei strives for poetic imagery which does not always work. The narrative line is often choppy and perhaps more careful editorial shaping would benefit what must surely be a second book from this new author.