Sunday, February 18, 2018

What we Lose, A Novel by Zinzi Clemmons

While this is a novel, I suspect from the acknowledgments that it is at least partially autobiographical.  Like the author, the narrator, Thandi is a mixed race woman born in Pennsylvania to a South African mixed race mother and an African American father.

The book is structured more like a collection of musings or blog entries than a novel, but it is nonetheless very engaging.  It moves back in forth in time from Thandi's childhood to her present day as a divorced single mother.  The main theme of the book is how Thandi copes with the death of her mother from cancer - and how this loss impacts her life in a myriad of ways for years to come.

There are some more impersonal entries from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission or other observers of life in South Africa, as well as life expectancy statistics by race in the US, but for the most part this is a highly personal first person narrative.

I very much enjoyed reading about Thandi's relationships with her parents, her best friend, Aminah, her eventual ex-husband, Peter, her son, M and her colourful relations in Johannesburg.  She comes across as a very normal person struggling with a difficult loss - and suffering the consequences of the impact this loss has on her relationships with others, in particular, Peter who she may have married too hastily in order to fill the void.

A very quick and easy read that I recommend.

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