What We Lose

Zinzi Clemmons. Viking, $22 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2171-0
Exacting reflections on race, mourning, and family are at the center of this novel about a college student whose mother dies of cancer. Born to an American father and a South African mother, Thandi is a character defined by conflicting conceptions of identity, belonging, and class, divisions that only deepen in the wake of her mother’s death. Early chapters establish these dichotomies in content and form, contrasting Thandi’s charged visits to Johannesburg with her Philadelphia coming of age by way of photographs, articles, graphs, and song lyrics. The first third of the novel culminates with Thandi discovering that she is pregnant, before then detailing her mother’s illness and how the resulting heartbreak ushered Thandi into an ill-fated long distance relationship with Peter, the child’s father. Peter moves to New York to marry Thandi and raise their child, Mahpee, but all parties soon glean the untenability of Thandi’s building a new family without processing the grief of her original one. Though too restrained, there are some inspired moments, and Clemmons admirably balances the story’s myriad complicated themes. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/15/2017
Release date: 07/11/2017
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-0-7352-2172-7
Library Binding - 277 pages - 978-1-4328-4641-1
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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