Book Review

Zebra Crossing – Meg Vandermerwe

I have the pleasure of sitting around Meg Vandermerwe’s table once a month learning the art of creative writing. A lecturer at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The Editor of New Contrast Magazine devoted to the publishing of original stories by South African writers. Her first published work was a collection of short stories “This place I call home”.

Zebra Crossing isn’t a lengthy novel, yet I meandered through it. I wanted to savour every word, every beautiful detail of a remarkable tale. Meg’s writing is unlike anything I’ve encountered. Sentences that stop you in your tracks, taking a moment to reflect on its sheer magnificence. Characters that creep into your heart with every flick of the page. It’s authentic and lyrical style lingers as it hurtles to a close with one wishing it could have turned out differently.

Chipo is a seventeen year old albino, raised in Zimbabwe. She knows only ridicule and shame from many who perceive her to be superstitious, unnatural and an eye sore. Holding on to memories of unconditional love from a mother who passed too soon, she is left in the hands of a brother, George. They flee Zimbabwe, illegally crossing the border in search of a bright future.

The year is 2010, the World Cup has arrived on South African soil and xenophobia is rising. The pair settle in Cape Town with two brothers, David and Peter, fellow Zimbabweans. Chipo maintains her keep by taking care of household chores and assisting Jean-Paul, a dressmaker. David is the beholder of Chipo’s heart. Ignorant to this, he follows his own destiny and love interest. In a desperate plea to win the man of her dreams, Chipo’s path crosses that of Dr Ongani, a self-professed healer of bad fortune. Placing belief in him leads to disastrous consequences not only for herself, but the entire household.

Meg Vandermerwe has encouraged through her teaching to read out of one’s comfort zone and now I know why. South Africa has many talented storytellers who sadly don’t receive the support and appreciation they deserve. The knowledge they possess living in a country as diverse as ours, cultures intertwined, shining the spotlight on hidden struggles, makes for explosive reading.

I have only the highest praise for this book and the Author. I urge you to give it a try. A five star rating.

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