Monday, September 16, 2019

Hope Is Our Only Wing by Rutendo Tavengerwei

HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING is set in Zimbabwe and is the story of two teenage girls. Shamiso is still overcoming her grief at the death of her journalist father in a car accident that might or might not have been an accident. Tanyaradzwa is a mischievous, outspoken girl who loves to sing but is has a terrible burden-- she has a cancerous tumor on her vocal chords and surgery might mean loss of her singing voice, if not death.

**contains very mild spoilers**

Shamiso is bullied and teased for her English accent and about her dead father, whose death seems more and more likely to be politically-linked. Because a lot of her friends distanced themselves from her after the tragedy, she pushes everyone away by being antisocial. Tanyaradzwa isn't put off by this; in fact, she seems to take Shamiso's bristliness as an invitation to approach, prickles be cursed. The two end up unlikely friends, bonded together over shared tragedy and the intriguing mystery of Shamiso's father. It seems unlikely that these two will end up getting a happy ending, but sometimes the world moves in unlikely ways and even the unlucky ones can catch a break.

If there's a trope I'm a total sucker for that I really don't see enough of, it's well done female friendships. I'm finally starting to see more books that really put a premium on girlhood and the bonds between girls, and that makes me so happy to see. Not that I don't appreciate reading about a whole bunch of dramatic frenemies and cat fights, but sometimes it's nice to take a break and actually read a book about people who like each other. Shamiso and Tanyaradzwa are both nuanced characters with serious problems, and I like how they ended up bonding because of their unhappiness.

Even though this is just getting three stars, it's a high three-star rating. There was nothing objectionable about the book and it had lovely spare prose-- the problem is that it seemed to move a little fast and sometimes the story-telling and the characterization ended up falling flat because of it. Shamiso and Tanyaradzwa were great characters, as I said, but I would have liked to have spent more time with them and maybe learned a little more about them. I also think the suspense could have been better about Shamiso's father. I think I saw someone else saying that this book could have been better if the thriller element was played up more, and I agree.

HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING is an interesting piece of African literary fiction geared towards young adults. It's about girls being friends and overcoming adversity, and I think a lot of people who read this will like it. It's definitely an easy read and doesn't have any objectionable content, or controversial topics. That made it a little bland for me, but I know others prefer their books on the milquetoast side of things. The ending is satisfying, if bittersweet (to my relief-- I was prepared to cry).

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!   

3 out of 5 stars

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