Star Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
The Ones with Purpose
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele
Kwela Books, April 2018
Online Price: R244
The writing in this heartbreaking novel is nothing short of impeccable. Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, author of Happiness is a Four-Letter Word, awards us with her second offering – it is as if we didn’t wait 8 years for her comeback.
The Ones with Purpose is a story about Anele and her sister, Fikile, who dies fighting breast cancer. We follow a deeply broken family in New Hope Township, the Mabuzas.
Can the death of their older daughter Fikile bring them closer together?
The ones with purpose are dying, who will be left to save the world?
Anele our protagonist is burdened by responsibilities. Jele captures survival, poverty and the effects of Black Tax effortlessly, as Anele takes on the responsibilities of her sister. Memories of Fikile, who sacrificed her youth to take care of their household – and trapped herself in a marriage with Thiza – haunt Anele. Will familial burdens bury her?
In the story of Mbuso Mabuza, Anele’s younger brother, we learn the effects of patriarchal society. He left home and chose for many years to be banished to his own world. These are cards the two sisters were not dealt with because men can make choices for themselves – in relationships or family – and rid themselves of responsibilities.
With her sister gone, her father long passed away, her mother a born-again Christian with a rather un-sober past and her younger brother Mbuso consumed with rage that refuses to settle, Anele has no choice but to collect herself and grow up. But if truth be told, she has not signed up to be the family caretaker. Surely her own dreams are valid?
The themes Jele weaves are relatable: family, friendship, fatal illness, survival, teenage pregnancy, miscarriage, rape, divorce, infidelity, money, secrets, suicide, post-partum depression, alcoholism and setbacks. She encapsulates Black family life like no other: the dubious uncles, the cynical aunts, the Black funerals and the neighbour who becomes part of the family.
There is one thing about Nozizwe Jele in this novel – her writing is intentional and we’re here for it.
— Review by Nondumiso Tshabangu, editor of Africa’s Lit, the African literature-themed newsletter from Exclusive Books