There are some books that you hear about or see on the shelves at the bookstore and you just immediately *want* to love them. This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga was one of those books for me. I saw the cover and read the description and immediately wanted to read the book. It has even gotten great reviews from book reviewers (but so does Zadie Smith’s work, and y’all know how I feel about that).
If the book had been anything like the description on the back cover, I may have enjoyed it. As it stands, I still couldn’t tell you what this book is about or explain its themes . . . or purpose. Honestly, I read the first 50 or 60 pages without understanding what the hell was even going on. Once I got to the end, I realized that the plot described on the back cover is almost exclusively limited to what happens in the last 50 pages of the book. Everything else is just . . . there. Wow.
I do understand that this novel is a follow-up to the story that Dangarembga published 30 years ago, Nervous Conditions. Perhaps if I’d read that novel, I’d have a better appreciation for this one. I doubt it, though.
So, to give you a brief flavor of the plot, we have a female protagonist in Zimbabwe who seems to be approaching middle age. She has fallen on hard times after being fired from her good job at an marketing agency. She is now moving around, trying to find work, and trying to understand herself and her value when the things upon which she previously made those determinations are stripped away. These events and realizations lead to several violent outbursts and even a stay in a mental health facility. Ultimately, the protagonist finds a way to reclaim some of the old things that she valued in her life and career, but only if she is willing to sacrifice other aspects of herself that she hasn’t even known to value up until then.
That sounds pretty good, right? That’s because it’s a synopsis that *I* wrote. The actual novel? Nowhere near as good.
If you care to read this for yourself and see if you agree with my assessment, feel free! You can borrow my copy. No need to ever return it.