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Bringing Us Back by Mercy Dhliwayo

The trail that you leave behind is not drenched in blood either. Just fear. Lots of fear and not knowing what the immediate future holds. A different kind of war, where casualties are enumerated not by body counts but by a different kind of death. Death that comes through the inability to afford staying.”



Bringing us Back is a collection of heart aching stories, so you need all your strength ready as you prepare to read this one. In one colourful journey this collection explores the search for home, both old and new, the ache of Hope and despair, the makings and breaking of families and relations. Like many books that I have read that deal with the life of immigrants, the themes are held delicately and the overall book is highly emotive. In this debut collection Mercy Dhliwayo gives us a raw insight of what it means and what it looks like to be human in known and unfamiliar territories.

While reading this collection I held my breath from the beginning to the end. In the beginning, ‘Smashing Tomatoes,’ (which is one of my favourite stories in the collection) I found my gut wrenched by the reality that many people face in the streets. Fiction is real to me. This story gives an insight into the calamities that befall all those people that we see lining the streets, selling all sort of wares, vendors. In a language so vivid and apt, Mercy Dhliwayo makes the reader realize that although this is a story set in the Bulawayo city centre, this scene could have been taken out of any city/town/business centre in Zimbabwe. Considered filth, crushed by the police daily, beaten down by harsh weather conditions all for a chance of survival and still the world remains unkind. ‘Plan B’ is a brilliant story that shows the disintegration of families due to migration and the effects of that both parties. The anticipation of those left behind for the return of their loved ones can be crippling. Grace is in a tragic situation, living under difficult circumstances by making ends meet, playing the role of mother to her younger brother and still yearning for a mother’s love herself. The mother comes and goes as much as she can but the cost of that to her children is irreversible, “But there is no consolation in seeing her mother when each visit brings the pain of watching her leave after just a brief stay, losing her all over again.” (page 60). In the end, ‘Bringing Us Back,’ (the title story) highlights the complexities associated with coming back home and being brought back. Some find it easy but for most it is a difficult journey coming back across borders and seas with little or nothing to hold on to. This story gives you another picture, others come back stone cold dead. So here’s the question, for how long will it be like this? Coming/being brought back home can also be a distressful experience. Dead or alive, the reality is some would rather just find themselves back home either way. My truth after holding my breath from the first story to the last, is I am still waiting to exhale.

‘Bringing Us Back’ reminded me of Sue Nyathi’s The Gold Diggers and that search for a better way of life. The struggle is made clear, fighting the thoughts of leaving as hard as it is and going to an unknown future where the possibility of being clenched by the jaws of death is very high. In ‘Nkulukleko’ Zama faces this dilemma, and she fights the battle knowing that she has to make a decision whether or not to leave the homophobic community of Nkululeko, “‘She however knows enough of Nkululeko to want to leave. But in her head she hears Ikeni’s voice against the backdrop Kenyan music. ‘But why should we be driven out?’” (page 19) Questions that need answers. Yet the journey is not easy. In a refreshing 2nd person point of view, ‘Exodus’ highlights the prices that some have to pay to make it across borders and seas. This story will have you shedding a tear or two, “Beit Bridge is hot with evil intent. You do not open the windows for the air that blows inside is hot. You fan yourself with your bare hands or a book and are glad when the Quantum stops for recess.” Just how hot is it? I can imagine what is hotter between the heart of Beit Bridge and the furnace that is one’s home country? Even then the journey is long and winding filled with fear, some courage and the hope of a better future. “You walk. And walk. And walk. You walk as you have never walked before.” (Page 34).

It’s clever that this collection does not ignore what lies ahead for the many immigrants who walk and walk into unfamiliar lands, some with Moses guiding them and others all alone. Others walk into countries that have swallowed their spouses to find them cheating, some into good lives, others into lives filled with drug abuse. I enjoyed reading this collection and highly recommend it. Mercy Dhliwayo is a vivid writer and the play with various form of points of view keeps the pace of the collection steady. You might need some breaks in between stories but the reading experience is absolutely worth it! You just have to read this book. I’ll be shelving this collection on my special corner of favourites.


Book Details

Title: Bringing Us Back

Author: Mercy Dhliwayo

Genre: Short stories anthology

Pages: 121 (Kindle Version)

Publisher: Vhakololo Press (2020)

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