cover image Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose

Kopano Matlwa. Quercus, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-63506-032-4

In this slim but complex novel, Matlwa (Spilt Milk) presents a visceral and empathetic vision of South Africa. Masechaba dedicates her life to medicine, hoping to one day cure her chronic reproductive health problems. A doctor, Masechaba navigates the overcrowded and limited resources plaguing the South African healthcare system. She seeks companionship in Nyasha, an opinionated physician from Zimbabwe. However, after a wave of vicious anti-immigrant sentiment leads to a swell of wounded foreigners admitted to their unnamed hospital, their friendship is tested by their opposing views on colonization, culture, and societal hierarchies; Masechaba resolves to petition against the prejudicial views held by many of her fellow citizens. Her petition succeeds in gaining international attention, but inevitably the zealots she had hoped to curb target her for her anti-xenophobic stance, resulting in a violent attack. Matlwa’s novel is a critical exploration of contemporary xenophobia and the lasting socioeconomic effects of apartheid. The book’s clever structure—Masechaba’s journal entries addressed to God, punctuated by Bible scripture—assists the narrative voice, providing deeper context for the conflicts that lead Masechaba from frustration to crisis. Matlwa’s portrait of Masechaba is nuanced and impressive, and her story moving. (Apr.)