Harare Voices & Beyond is one of the books I took a liking to this year. Having been in a reading slump for a while, the plot was quite intriguing.
We see the world through different points of view, taking a glimpse into the drug syndicate in Zimbabwe. We see the hierarchy of the drug world and how it affects the consumer whose life is the centre of the book. It reminded me of the docu-series, Gold Mafia, but with drugs.
The book starts with Rhys and Doris, a white Zimbabwean mother and son who are on trial for the murder of Julian, the protagonist. Rhys, the older son seems to try and hold the family together after the death of his father, Jim, and their farm being seized as a result of the land reform act in 2000’s Zimbabwe. He tries to soothe and encourage his mother Doris, but she is haunted by the death of her younger son, Julian who is the protagonist of the book. Julian (dead), urges the reader to see life through his eyes and how an overdose led to the loss of his life. We learn more about him through his therapy sessions, which prove he has deeper mental issues; interactions with others and his thoughts. We see him lose his father, marriage, sanity and even dignity as drugs strip him of his humanity and leave him a shell of his former self.
We get to learn more about the murder confession through Rhys telling Marina, a girl he is drawn to in Chikurubi Maximum Prison. We learn that Rhys is concealing a much bigger secret that gives the ending an unexpected plot twist which left me shocked! I will not spoil it for anyone but the ending caught me by surprise.
Harare Voices & Beyond strongly touches on topics such as:
- Racism – how the white Zimbabweans have suffered at the hands of the government and how they face racism being the minority e.g. being called slurs.
- Filial bonds – Rhys and Julian did not have a strong/nurturing bond with their mother (they both call her by her name). There is also Sophie and Marina, their relationship was strained due to Sophie not having a maternal bone and giving up her child.
- Corruption – We see how the corruption in Zimbabwe drives a lot of people especially the youth into getting into gangs, using drugs etc, it seems like it is planned by those high-ups to destroy the youth and have them rely on their malfeasance.
- Sexual abuse & assault – We see how sexual abuse affects both male and female victims. From Marina having been subjected to abuse and it causing her to close off and have complicated relationships, to Archie being subjected to sexual abuse but not knowing how to express it due to not having the proper tools and poverty.
- Abandonment Issues: Marina is abandoned by her mother and it results in her being rebellious at school and being lost in life.
- The Land Reform Act: White farmers being removed from farms in Zimbabwe and how it affected both the black and the white people. It caused death, and strife to the white community and the black people who worked on the farms lost their jobs and could not provide for their families.
- Therapy: We see how therapy helped Julian open up and be diagnosed with a mental illness which would have been ignored if Helen did not take the time to accommodate him. It also showed that most men need therapy and acting out might not be because they are a hopeless case but it is a cry for help.
About the Author:
Hailing from Zimbabwe, Andrew Chatora writes novels and short stories. He received an MA in Media, Cultural and Communication from UCL. His writing explores multifarious themes of belonging, identity politics, citizenship and nationhood issues. ‘Where The Heart Is’ is his second novel following his highly successful debut novella: ‘Diaspora Dreams‘. Andrew is principally interested in the global politics of inequality which he interrogates through his writing. When he’s not writing , he is working on his PhD thesis on digital piracy with Birmingham City University’s School of Media and English.