The evilness of the white system rule like colonialism and apartheid in South Africa was that it destroyed many souls, marriages, livelihoods, and bonds among couples and foes.
For any race which the systems were not designed to serve, irrespective of one’s age or whether you are a privileged trust fund vagabond, the iniquitous system had a way to leave an indelible mark of bitterness and hatred in one’s heart.
In Scatterlings, Rešoketšwe Manenzhe narrates a story of how the evilness of the iniquitous political system through its racist laws not only took away the livelihood of the Van Zijl but also destroyed the entire family. Rešoketšwe transports the readers into the excruciating journey of an interracial marriage of Abram and Alisa Van Zijl, which unfortunately end in a painful manner.
Now, I need to give credit to Rešoketšwe for her special skill in telling a story that ordinarily will open the wounds of the past and leave one emotionally drained out after reading the book. However, it is her descriptive writing and narrative control through her cast of characters that made me appreciate her gift as a writer and helped me not to feel bitter but learn a life lesson from the book. The lesson is; if you are not happy where you are currently, go to a place where you will find that happiness and peace.
While it is the Immorality Act(yes, that evil act) that set the scene for the story, it is events that follow that make Scatterlings a book that elegantly shows how racism, hatred, bitterness and unforgiving heart can be the ingredients that can destroy a family.
The beauty of Rešoketšwe’s writing is in her characters’ ability to trigger mixed feelings to a reader.
I found myself angry at the selfishness of Alisa. Yes, her marriage with Abram was on the rocks and it seems the Immorality Act just added more woes to their already failing union. But for her to kill herself and her daughter, leaving her other daughter motherless was a painful and selfish act. It was also painful to hear Abram telling Dido to act like she was not his child, just so to protect her from the racist agents such as Daniel Ross.
While I need to admit that I struggled with the pace of the storyline, especially in the opening chapters, however, Rešoketšwe’s descriptive writing hypnotized me to read further.
The book remains a beautifully crafted tale that speaks to the complexities of South Africa’s old and current socio-political complexities. The challenges of interracial marriages and the land question remain topics of dicussion in the democratic dispensation.
Rešoketšwe has won me over as a fan and I am looking forward to reading her future work.