Butterfly Burning

Yvonne Vera, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $14 (144p) ISBN 978-0-374-29186-0
In the 1940s, the choices for women in British-ruled Zimbabwe were depressingly few, as Vera (thrice shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize-African region) illustrates in this slim scorcher. Beautiful, innocent Phephelaphi appears to middle-aged laborer Fumbatha as if in a dream, when she wades out of the river that winds through the black township of Makokoba. He immediately desires her ""like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him."" Her carefree spirit soon tires of his devoted love, however, which she cannot return, although she continues to live with him without the benefit of marriage. Before her mother's tragic murder, Phephelaphi was given a smattering of education, which she knows is the key to her freedom and to her self-realization. ""She wanted more than obligation, not a fleeting excitement among male strangers with enticing tongues and a flirtatious oneness. She wanted a birth of her own."" After gaining a coveted position at a local nursing school, however, Phephelaphi is grounded by the unthinkable: she learns she is pregnant and no longer eligible for the training course. A searing chapter describes an abortion Phephelaphi performs on herself, which changes the course of her still uncertain destiny. After learning of Phephelaphi's abortion, Fumbatha destroys what little is left of Phephelaphi's self-worth by admitting to adultery and shedding a tragic light on her own parentage. ""Falling to pieces, easy, easier than she imagined. Much much easier than holding a man in your arms,"" she muses. Written in lyrical, metaphor-laden, heavily symbolic prose, this mesmerizing first U.S. appearance of Vera's work is sure to garner attention. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/11/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 135 pages - 978-1-77909-016-4
Open Ebook - 144 pages - 978-1-4668-0607-8
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!