Busisekile Khumalo was born in Zimbabwe and currently resides in South Africa. She is a human rights lawyer and has published four books in her name, The Harvard Wife(2017), Nomaswazi (2019), Lola’s Heart (2020), a sequel to The Harvard Wife, and Fallen Candle (2020). Busisekile thrives and prefers self-publishing her work.
Fallen Candle was my first experience of reading Busisekile’s work.
The book follows the journey of a young woman, Emihle, also known as maDamasane and Ikhandlela lakayise. Circumstances force her to flee her in-laws’ compound in rural Zimbabwe, a day after the burial of her estranged husband.
We follow her life in the concrete jungle of Johannesburg, living a life of an undocumented immigrant; to Hillbrow, Freedom Park, Alexandra, and the Northern suburbs. Her light was dimmed when her dotting dad, her husband, her employer Mrs P, and Abe, her boyfriend died on her, and she needed to dust herself off and carry on.
We are regaled with stories of the new people she meets, the reunion with other Zimbabwean nationals, her newfound love, and her endeavours to make a living.
Upon being nudged by a traditional healer and the spirit of her deceased dad, she temporarily returns to Zimbabwe to attend to unfinished business.
An interesting and fast-paced story of resilience, survival, sisterhood, family, patriarchy, immigration and hope. An apt tribute to queen Lozikayi and ordinary women who are the engine of society. The storyline of Tobias portrayed compassion beyond expectation. Emihle could have just left and not felt obligated towards his late husband’s brother and her monster in law’s son. It was refreshing that her goodwill looked past the adversity that was meted on her by the Tshabalala family.
Fallen Candle also brings to the fore the dynamics and continued exploitation of workers within fast-food establishments in South Africa. To the extent that the locals and ‘foreigners’ are reduced to fighting for crumbs while the owners go smiling to the bank.
While the portion of the book is said to be non-fiction, I expected a fair balance between the verisimilitude aspect and fictional latitude. I did not find it plausible for Emihle to continue being best friends with Zimkitha, the Jozi secret wife of her estranged husband, especially after the revelation that Zimkitha’s manipulation and blackmail were part of the reasons why Minihle’s husband, Butho abandoned her .
Neither did I find it conceivable, despite it having been a childhood dream for Emihle to persist in qualifying as a nurse and then proceeding to work in a stressful, low-paying, and dangerous public hospital. While loaded from her inheritance.
The book The Harvard Wife is a bestseller and a readers’ favourite. Nomaswazi was part of the 2019 Exclusive Books Homebru selection. Busisekile continues to contribute and to cement her place in the South Africa literature landscape. The brightness of her future in literature is going to require us to constantly wear shades.
Fallen Candle will resonate and speak to many Africans.
Great book and I recommend it.