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Far From Home
Robert, Na'ima B.; Far From Home. London: Frances Lincoln / Janetta Otter-Barry Books, 2012. $8.99 (pap), ISBN 978-1-84780-006-0.

Note: Two girls are worlds apart but are linked by a terrible secret as they struggle with adolescence, family and a painful colonial legacy as the turbulent history of Zimbabwe is brought to life.

Zimbabwe Stories: Correcting the Imbalance

Robert introduces the reader to two real families' struggles, beginning with the impact of the Land Reapportionment Act under white political rule and ending with the land reapportionment program under black rule, 20 years after independence. Robert provides a very human face to the impact of these two events on the lives of her protagonists and gives the reader insight into the emotional, personal feelings of the mothers, fathers, children and extended families involved. Fear, anger, hatred, joy, beauty, contentment, all of these basic human experiences come to life in this book, on both sides of the color question.

The white family, removed from their farm and self-exiled to London, are fraught with emotional problems that tear the family apart. They cannot adapt to London, living in a small apartment, without servants, without land to call their own. Likewise, the black family, removed much earlier from their farm and exiled to the native reserve, faced severe problems that upset family accord. Some accepted the status-quo and agreed to work with the white authorities; some joined the freedom fighters in bloody combat against the white authorities. Robert manages to describe the dysfunction in both families, giving us a far deeper understanding and appreciation of the price paid by those who lived in Zimbabwe between the mid twentieth and the early twenty first centuries.

That is not to say that Robert empathizes with the white family's circumstances; she does not; but she brings their experiences to life and makes their losses real. The author, in the end, makes the point that the injustices done in the historic past of this great nation have been brought to a reasonable form of equity. This is not the usual interpretation of events in Zimbabwe in recent years. An overwhelming sympathy for the white farmers who were evicted from their farms was evident in the press and in stories told by Western visitors to Zimbabwe. Robert paints a far more complex picture. She provides insight into the tribulations of whites and blacks in poignant and memorable ways.

As someone who lived in Zimbabwe during the early years depicted in this book, I can verify Robert's descriptions of both racial communities. She has got it right.

Published in Africa Access Review (October 2, 2012)

Copyright 2012 Africa Access

Rating: HR Grade: M / H Type: Book

Reviewed by: Marylee Crofts, Ph.D.

Subject: Southern Africa / Zimbabwe / Historical Fiction / CABA Winner