cover image All That It Ever Meant

All That It Ever Meant

Blessing Musariri. Norton Young Readers, $18.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-3240-3095-9

Fourteen-year-old Matiponesa Mufanani must navigate tense familial relationships following her mother’s death in Musariri’s moving tale. Mati’s family is imploding under the weight of her mother’s absence: her father, Baba, has withdrawn emotionally; her older sister Chichi, 17, has grown increasingly rebellious; her younger brother Tana, 10 and constantly caught in the middle of Chichi and Baba’s arguments, yearns for stability; and Mati often feels invisible amid the turmoil. When Baba suddenly decides to take Mati and her siblings on an extended camping trip to visit family in their native Zimbabwe, each sibling must confront their grief while stuck in close quarters. Despite the forced bonding time, Mati finds the most comfort in pipe-smoking Meticais, a gender-neutral figure with locs who is visible only to her. Meticais imparts wisdom, helping Mati navigate her mercurial interpersonal relationships and feelings of grief. Though a reserved protagonist, Mati’s emotions are palpable and portrayed with complexity. Employing an ethereal atmosphere and intimate-feeling prose, Musariri explores belonging, grief, and love in this powerful homage to family set against an intricately detailed backdrop. Ages 13–up. (Jan.)