It is often said that good things come to those who wait.
And boy oh boy, we have waited 12 years before feeding our hungry reading appetite to this latest cracking novel by Niq Mhlongo.
Niq has constantly reminded us that he started writing his latest novel, Paradise in Gaza back in 2008. Well, lo and behold, he has finally delivered a South African novel that one can easily bet will scoop yet another literary accolades for him. Niq has proven once again why he is one of the country’s literary giants with this gem.
In Paradise in Gaza, the story is centred around the struggles faced by the Mpisani family during the apartheid years. Set in the fictional village of Gaza in the then Gazankulu homeland and also in Soweto, the ‘death’ of Mpisi Mpisani’s son, Giyani changes the trajectory of his polygamous marriage and also further plunges his already poverty-stricken family in Gaza into the depth of hunger.
Poverty, land dispossession, African spirituality, racism, hatred, witchcraft, patriarchal legacies, and religion are some of the themes that form part of the narrative.
Perusing through the pages, I was struck by Niq’s gift as a writer and storyteller.
His exploration of African spirituality through Mpisi’s second wife, Ntombazi, made me appreciate his skill as a storyteller. It’s either Niq has done bloody good research on the subject of African spirituality or he personally went through the same initiation process (I suspect the latter).
I appreciate how he explicitly unpacks the whole initiation process to the reader, leaving them feeling like they have just personally finished the entire sangoma process after putting the book down.
In Paradise in Gaza, Niq not only gives us a book that teaches us about African spirituality but also probes the effects that apartheid had on black people living in rural places, especially women.
While Gaza was a poverty hub and had no economic opportunities whatsoever in the apartheid years, however, nothing has changed even in the “New South Arica” as rural areas are still the most economically disenfranchised, where poverty has a face and a gender.
Paradise in Gaza is a cracking thriller and one that will leave a reader with their mouths open, especially with how the story’s stunning magical finale.
The authenticity of characters is what also makes the stories in this book more relatable. I found myself relating more to Bento on so many levels and that is what a good novel does to one. Characters trigger a different set of emotions or the reader see themselves in them. And the characters in this gem will sure do both to a reader.
You will read this book more than once, it is just unputdownable.