Love In­ter­rupted

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - AIMEE JODOIN

Reneilwe Malatji Cat­a­lyst Press (AU­GUST) Soft­cover $15.95 (224pp) 978-1-946395-03-0

In the South Africa of Reneilwe Malatji’s Love In­ter­rupted, in­fi­delity runs ram­pant without con­se­quence, moth­ers-in-law judge their sons’ wives mer­ci­lessly, and women find it hard to at­tain re­spect no mat­ter their so­cial or eco­nomic stand­ing. The un­sen­ti­men­tal style of these sto­ries packs an emo­tional punch as they ex­am­ine post-apartheid pa­tri­archy through the eyes of var­i­ous ob­ser­vant black women char­ac­ters.

A woman scolds her hus­band for his drunken be­hav­ior af­ter he crashes his car through the garage door. A mother pro­tects her four young chil­dren from their abusive father but can’t make her­self di­vorce him. A new bride’s fam­ily tries to give the dowry back when her hus­band doesn’t con­sum­mate the re­la­tion­ship. The strug­gles of these women are ripped open and told with clar­ity and lev­ity, even when it seems im­pos­si­ble.

In many of the sto­ries, the first-per­son nar­ra­tion lends it­self to in­ti­macy, while the no-non­sense re­la­tion of events of­fers a jux­ta­pos­ing dis­tance from emo­tion. Each story feels like it’s re­veal­ing a se­cret about what life for mar­ried women in South Africa is re­ally like. Most strik­ing are scenes in which women re­al­ize how men’s bad be­hav­ior in their cul­ture has be­come ex­cus­able. When a woman’s Nige­rian friend com­ments on the lack of father fig­ures in South Africa, for in­stance, she con­tem­plates the his­tory of min­ing and mi­grant work­ers, pro­claim­ing that “love is a learned thing.” Without a father in the home—whether be­cause he’s work­ing afar or stay­ing with his mis­tress—boys con­tinue on the same path.

Each tale tack­les a dif­fer­ent is­sue with a woman’s keen eye: from the in­ten­sity of bach­e­lorette par­ties to the su­per­sti­tion sur­round­ing witch doc­tors to the per­va­sive­ness of al­co­holism. Love In­ter­rupted re­veals the di­chotomies found in this coun­try with a split iden­tity, haunted as it is by colo­nial­ism but itch­ing to join the West­ern world’s cul­ture.

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