BOOK REVIEW: Shadows
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Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Shadows is comprised of several short stories with a down-to-earth approach.
The protagonist in the main story is Mpho, a young man who has had a difficult life and a fast childhood.
The story is set in a country torn apart by a powerful ruling party and a fast-emerging opposition.
Ordinary people are caught up in the tide and some are scarred.
As if political problems are not enough, the economy hits rock bottom and others lose their civility.
Sometimes in life, because of the circumstances surrounding us, we tend to feel hollow and desperately need something to cling to.
This is Mpho’s tale – hollow and incongruent – an unstable childhood with a drunk prostitute for a mother makes him a confused young man who grasps at anything that seems sensible.
His dilemma is highlighted when he ends up being charged under Section 33 and 42 of the Criminal Law Codification Act for making derogatory remarks about the powers-that-be.
Tshuma shifts the setting to neighbouring South Africa to which those professionals can flee.
In the foreign land, they hold on to their degrees as they wait on tables and tend gardens.
The uneducated resort to prostitution and other high-risk activities.
Here, it is easier to blend in with their Ndebele connections.
Abuse of outsiders by law enforcement agents is also rampant – the Shaka-Mzilikazi disconnection.
History has been cruel to them all.
At this irony, the writer laments: “Why didn’t King Mzilikazi just put in South Africa?”
I think people are always quick to call evil that which they do not know. The unknown sprouts fear.
Fingers are pointed, accusations made and targets land on someone’s back.
Emotional and psychological disturbances are further explored in You In Paradise. Noma, an undergraduate student at Wits University, suffers emotional trauma as a result of her problematic childhood in Zimbabwe.
In Waiting brings out the disintegration of moral values as life becomes a “man-eats-man” affair.
Tribalism and party boot-licking are issues in For the Love of the Country, while Crossroads tells of a harrowing trek to Joburg.
Although the stories tackle serious life issues, they are told somewhat comically.
They make up a labyrinth, an electrifying, macabre maze that is memorable.
The book offers a peek into the plight of some nationals in their own countries and in the diaspora.
It is a case of being caught between a rock and a hard place, but her Zimbabwe is still a beautiful place to live in.