Star Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Umuzi, September 2014
Online Price: R185
Ten years ago, I helped a handful of men take my little brother’s life. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I told Luthando where to find them.
Masande Ntshanga’s debut novel grabs you from the get go. Our narrator, Lindanathi Mda is racked with guilt by the memory of having contributed to his younger brother Luthando’s death. The Reactive follows his story as an HIV positive young man, living in Cape Town in the early 2000s.
Lindanathi and his friends Cissie and Ruan work dead-end jobs and while running an illegal operation selling a concoction of glue and ARVs. They live a life of evasion, smoking the very drugs they manufacture, always on the chase for their next high. They call this stage of their lives “Last Life”. They have given up on life and are prepared and hope to die at any given moment.
Lindanathi continues his drug-infused journey, until he receives a message from Bhut’ Vuyo, Luthando’s step-father, which reminds him of a promise he made to their family eight years ago. While old wounds resurface, Lindanathi is faced with the decision of continuing a life of evasion or returning home and facing the responsibility that comes with everything he left behind.
About the author
Ntshanga was shortlisted for the 2015 Caine Prize and is the winner of the 2013 PEN International New Voices Award. He has also received a Fulbright award, a Mellon Mays Foundation fellowship, and a Civitella Ranieri fellowship in Umbria, Italy.
— Review by Lungile Khumalo