I have chosen to break each of these short stories into mini-reviews for purposes of this review. I hope this gives you a glimpse into how special and worthwhile this book is. If in anyway this whets your appetite then do not hesitate to grab a copy, if only to realise that there’s something mystical in every ‘ordinary’ person.
We truly are nothing without our mothers. In a patriarchal black world where we are taught our identity lies in the paternal – we really truly do still need our mothers. The issue of identity as coming from a mother, passed on through the intimacies of giving birth and breastfeeding shines through in this story. Also too the question of love and sex and single motherhood. Through it all though we can never escape who we are.
I love the character of Koko, she is every black child’s grandmother, her love is soft and determined and she effortlessly fills the empty spaces dug out by life with a light that both shines and uplifts.
Ghost Strain N
This story tackles the issue of drugs in townships, especially Nyaope and how it kills the future for the youth who in turn kill their communities seeking to sustain this deadly habit.
It questions governments response to this crisis which is eating away at the soul of despondent young people who seem to have never had a fighting chance.
In the midst of all that Mohale has managed to tell a story of hope, and friendship. Of dying while living and of resurrecting the living dead.
I didn’t quite connect with this story. If anything I found it to be a tale of infrastructure or location or better yet premises, as a catalyst to memory – good and bad. So the naming of streets and old city buildings as playing a significant role in capturing both personal and historical history. It’s also a tale of how fickle and fleeting the human memory is.
Again here I’m not really sure that’s what Mohale was going for but it is what I received from this piece. That history only repeats itself because we are quick to forget.
Untitled I, ii, iii
In this tale Mohale explores sacrificial love in a profound way. There is a love that transcends age and permission and lays down its life in exchange for yours. It doesn’t only live in religion or the Bible it is alive in the everyday human bonds we form.
This is also a tale of what we do to the earth today and how it catches up with us tomorrow and we won’t all be lucky enough to make it out alive. This story is imbued with sci-fi, life in space, questions and motives. It has a dystopian theme and parts of it are revisited throughout the collection, broken down into three parts in all.
Bnb in Bloem
Femicide is at the center of this story. Together with revenge, death and a sense of “correction”. Women who die at the hands of men come back to avenge their unjust murders.
On the run
This is one of my faves. Probably because it talks to journalism as an instrument in a democratic world or that there’s a supernatural tinge to it (as all the short stories have by the way) but I loved this one.
Mohale’s brief dip into history also added the right amount of flare. Well told and well-constructed.
In this tale the morality of genetic mutation comes under question. Are we headed down the path where we will all soon play God? Also how much do we actually know about creation for us to even dare make our own humans?
The high heel killers
A reminder of how lack of empathy can kill us or turn our fellow humans into murderers.
This is also a tale of how much we can take before enough is enough. After one has stomached injustice after injustice in a cruel world they reach a crossroad where there’s a choice between monster and something beautiful.
Once upon a town
This story made me wonder if love can ever truly be prescriptive and how we treat the other in our midst.
It’s a story that questions our values and character. What eventually drives us away and what draws us in?
And they say fairytales (in this case folklore or folk tales don’t come true). Imagine that?
The recording of history through folklore or myth is not so far-fetched. Or is it?
Mohale has done a sterling job with these pieces. They have allowed magic to transcend the unimaginable, and permitted an ordinary South African girl to insert magic in the stories told by her grandmothers and at play in society. And what if truly there was something supernatural about us? What if all that folklore was about you and me?