cover image Call and Response: Stories

Call and Response: Stories

Gothataone Moeng. Viking, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-49098-3

Motswana writer Moeng’s lyrical and poignant debut delves into complex family dynamics. In “Botalaote,” Boikanyo, 12, no longer views her dying aunt as a relative, just a burden. Boikanyo meets a boy and escapes the drudgery of caretaking, though after her aunt’s death, her striking reflections on the proximity of her school to the cemetery make her realize the constant presence of death in her life. In “A Good Girl,” Keletso, nine, observes her mother and teenage sister’s wariness with each other as her sister vies for independence and spills a family secret. Keletso later moves to Gaborone, where her married brother lives, and remains the “good” one in his eyes, never revealing her relationships with men or her drinking. Here, Moeng adds to the stunning range of narrative styles, sliding into first-person plural to encapsulate the debaucherous activities of Keletso and her female roommates. She meets an artist, learns another secret, and comes to terms with her role as a repository for deceit. Twenty-something Phetso grieves her husband’s death in a car accident in “Small Wonders” and marvels at how nothing has changed for anyone else. She becomes a solitary observer, ignoring family and their desire for a ceremony to honor him and release her from her mourning after a year. The author brings insightful prose and a distinctive voice to these layered stories, demonstrating deep knowledge of her characters and care for their worlds. Moeng is a new force in the literary landscape. Agent: Julie Barer, Book Group. (Jan.)