In South Africa’s literary space, the most agreed upon sentiment is that one can only be a ‘certified author’ after they have published their third book.
Well, Sue Nyathi’s third novel has not only affirmed her as a ‘certified author’, but a rockstar of the latest, relevant, and exciting novels of our times.
Her latest offering, A Family Affair, credits her gift as a writer and storyteller. She shares the latest juicy stories from Zimbabwe.
Set in the wealthy suburban neighbourhood of Bulawayo, A Family Affair is centred around the Mafu family, which includes the father, mother and their three daughters. The story explores the Mafu family members’ relationships with each other, their extended relatives, their other halves, and other societal constructs.
African marriages, patriarchy, gender-based violence, religion, misogyny, traditional values and culture, secrets, and sisterhood are some of the themes that serve up the narrative.
Now, perusing through the pages of this great thriller, I went through so many mixed emotions. I was hurled from being happy, extremely disappointed, to furious with a hint of sadness.
And this was purely based on how I easily related to the characters and the story they each carried in delivering the narrative.
I need to admit though that it was Yandisa (the second girl in the Mafu family) whose story truly stirred mixed emotions in me.
I was happy when she got married and built her own successful business because she, represents many of us, who are the black sheeps in our families and we often the ones who have to prove our parents wrong and become successful before their beloved children (Yes, some parents love and treat their children differently).
However, it was her persistent refusal to leave her trashy husband, Wesley, which truly left me furious. Because this is a reality faced by many married women, who are abused physically, emotionally, sexually, and economically in African marriages.
Many stay in such broken unions with the hope that things will change or the fear of losing all their material comfort. Only to end up being part of the statistics relating to femicide and violence against women.
I liked how Sue depicted religion, patriarchy, culture, tradition, and wealth as enablers of societal ills such as women and children abuse. A Family Affair is not only about revealing family secrets but rather it educates us on how to speak about the violence that is meted on the most vulnerable in our society.
Listen, Sue is such a rockstar of storytelling. Her ability to grab the reader’s attention from the first sentence is one that is only found in a handful of authors.
While the book is long (458-pages to be exact) compared to her last two offerings, it is her crisp writing with short chapters, that makes this book a page-turner.
A Family Affair is a cracking novel and a sequel will be something the scribe should consider.
For me, the only bummer was Sue’s long list of characters, which can easily make a reader forget who-is-who-in-the zoo.
Besides that, this is a magnificent work of fiction and it comes as no surprise that the book has been reprinted.