Untimely Beginnings- Memoirs of Women Who Defied Fate is an anthology that includes contributions of 17 widows across various ages and race. 14 of the women are Black. The other women are American, Coloured and Indian. The women share about themselves, their respective families, and their marriages. They bare mainly about their experience after the unexpected passing of their husbands. The impact and reactions. How they coped with the children, work, and the community at large. The contributors relate of their grief and individual journey of healing.
The book not only evokes sympathy and centres on grief. It also gives hope, encouragement, and empowerment to those affected by death in general. Lindela was 30 and heavily pregnant, their son was three, and the husband was 33 when he died in a vehicle collision outside the country. Nandi was in a marriage for a mere 15 months when her husband Mbulelo tragically crossed over. Nonyameko’s husband, Kenny, committed suicide at the time that they were estranged from each other. I think the drama from the in-laws was underplayed here.
A sad, sensitive, emotive, but inevitable topic. A fact of our lives, death. The stories demonstrated resilience and resourcefulness. An example of how hard and deep women can love. Most of the women were not prepared and did not re-marry after their ordeals. The women fell, had to stand up, dust themselves off and carry on. Zenzile Makelo in her story on page 120 wrote.” The world does not wait for you, simply because you are grieving. Bills must be paid, and children must go to school, you must quickly define your new normal”
I felt that the individual voices of the ladies were lost in transition and translation. One voice, one style of narration, probably of the interviewer and compiler, was dominant.
My least favourite story was that of Lady Dee. Her name does not quite meet the real name policy. It seems cat fishy. Although the story holds lessons in independence, friendship, resilience and shunning the elements of tradition that are oppressive. I experienced the narration to be aloof. Unlike the other contributors, she does not mention husband, the kids and her area by name. As if she wanted to remain incognito. It took away from her story.
Overall, this is a great book. Our stories that are close to home, that resonate across various cultures. This could be your story, your aunt’s, your mom’s or your grandma’s. I recommend the book highly.