HomeStandard StyleBuilding Narratives: Chirenje’s novel explores societal issues (Part 1)

Building Narratives: Chirenje’s novel explores societal issues (Part 1)

BY Fungayi Sox
few weeks I go I wrote an article titled Chirenje in double book launch, an article, which touched on the grand launch of Audrey Chirenje’s fourth novel Guilt. The book in my view explores contemporary societal issues ranging from how an undealt past can impact our present.

The text centres on Nomhle who is on the run from her past and thinks that she has found an opportunity to turn her life around. Unknown to her, she has just signed her free will. Jonah is haunted by his past and just when he thought he had dealt with it, a bizarre incident happens. His failed opportunity to avert catastrophe sets him back on a downward spiralling journey.

For the purposes of this review,I will critique the text Guilt through characterisation of the main actors in the storyline.

Chirenje is no stranger to transporting her readers to various destinations. In Guilt, she transports the reader to Botswana where we are introduced to Nomhle, who has just arrived in that country and seems to be running from her dark past back in Zimbabwe. In her quest to seek greener pastures and look for a “maids job”, her heart is tainted with “guilt” and here the title of the book appears and becomes prevalent as the text progresses,

“You know how your heart could be crying but in the middle of a smile. During the day I would put up a straight brave of a smile and act like everything is honky dory but the moment your head hits the pillow. The questions start. The self-accusations. The guilt. The fear. The guilt. The self–recriminations “The guilt are always afraid they say. —(pp.8)

This is undoubtedly one of the powerful philosophical and prevalent the matical issue Chirenje explores in Guilt — that being at some moment and point in our lives, we all go through our worst moments and sometimes mess up. But running from our past may not be the answer as in attempting to run away from our past we might actually end up falling in more trouble as witnessed by Nomhle’s horrific experience in Botswana where she ends up getting tricked and trafficked under the guise of a false “maid jobs” advert. She is later on rescued and finds a good Samaritan who transports her back home to Zimbabwe.

Through a flashback, we later learn that there are so many reasons why she has escaped Zimbabwe. Firstly, it is the guilt of abandoning her little child in Zimbabwe and her abusive husband Sean.

“I had woken up with the choice to leave it all that morning…she had looked at me with those little innocent eyes and smiled at me. I could not even touch her, hug her or give her a goodbye kiss. When had I turned into this monster” —(pp 10)

Through her memory recalls, we are also informed that their domestic fight with her husband Sean had gotten out of control,

“The man eventually put me in a hospital with a broken rib. When he saw my face and body bruised and that I would be restricted to the house so that people could not see his body work, he then started hitting me on my ribs and stomach and back. —(pp.65)

It is ironic that this happens in the eyes of their little girl Lihle who in the final fight puts a stop to the fight between her mother and dad’s squabbles.

“Lihle would watch quietly while her mum was being turned into a punching bag. Then one day right in the middle of such a fight she broke into a loud scream, and went and attacked her father hitting him with a shoe oh his leg repeating the words No No Mama No…He stopped mid-air and then put his hands down and wept.” —(pp,65)

Although Nomhle comforts herself that her regular beatings from her husband Sean are a karma punishment for her snatching of him from his initial wife, it is actually her little girl who is conscientised and ends the battering of her own mother.

Lihle is used by the author as a symbol of hope of a rising generation which stands up to domestic violence as she too has had enough of the domestic squabble between her own father and mother.

Nomhle seems to be the only character in the text who rectifies or successfully addresses and deals with her past.When she arrives in Checheche, Manicaland, we learn as soon as she gains employment, that she immediately takes responsibility over Lihle by sending money to her now reformed Dad, Sean.

  • Fungai Antony Sox works at TisuMazwi — a social enterprise which specialises in book publishing and storytelling projects including book editing , ghost-writing and digital. He writes in his  personal capacity. For feedback contact him on 0776 030 949, follow him on Twitter @AntonySox, follow him on Instagram @soxtheeditor or connect with him on Facebook @Fungayi Antony Sox.

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