Title: The Reunion
Author: Kekelwa Nyaywa
Publisher and Year: East African Educational Publishers (EAEP), 2020
Reviewer: Mbukha Shitemi
The Reunion by Kekelwa Nyaywa is a moving story about Felize, a Zambian girl who grows up in a dysfunctional family.
This family lives in poverty with alcoholic parents who care less about the wellbeing of their children.
Felize’s parents are more interested in their drinking sprees than their own children’s welfare. The burden of taking care of the family is left to Wapili, Felize’s eldest sister.
This makes Felize want to leave her family for a better life. Fortunately, she gets her wish and leaves her family to go and live with her Aunt Liseho.
This is the beginning of a completely new life for her as her world instantly changes from a world of scarcity to a world of abundance.
This is enough motivation for her to want to get married into wealth!
The urge to live a good life leads Felize to an early marriage to Mushe, a politician who is a very close friend of Aunt Liseho’s family.
After winning Felize’s confidence, Mushe rapes her and ironically later confesses his love and intention to marry her despite the fact that he is of an advanced age and is already married to another woman.
Felize is much younger than he is, but in a strange turn of events, which is to say the least melodramatic, she falls in love, starts an affair with him and eventually agrees to marry him after she discovers she is pregnant and believes that there is no other way out of the situation.
Interestingly Mushe divorces his first wife of many years to marry Felize!
After all the glitz and glamour of political affluence wears off, and two children later, Felize realizes she is very lonely in the marriage because all Mushe cares about is his political career.
This leads her to a love affair with Chola, a pilot and brother to one of her husband’s political enemies.
Eventually, Chola is murdered under very unclear circumstances and this turns Felize’s world upside down, making her lose interest in life and sinking her into depression and alcoholism.
The painful loss of her lover, Chola, is difficult to bear.
To make matters worse, she losses her family when Mushe divorces her and is granted full custody of their children. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Felize comes out of her mess to have a fresh start. Finally, she gets an opportunity to reunite with her children.
In The Reunion, we see Felize going through so much to reconcile with her inner self and her family by accepting the consequences of her actions and decisions as she navigates through life.
This novel takes us through a number of issues at the centre of Felize’s life, including early marriage, poverty, greed for wealth, love, illicit and toxic relationships, sexual violence, dysfunctional families, acceptance and forgiveness, the role of family, political affluence and associations, intimacy and intrigues.
The story of Felize portrays how childhood experiences and the nurturing we go through as children affect our life decisions and the paths that we choose to take in life.
In this case, extreme poverty and lack of parental love, attention and guidance influence Felize’s choices in life, which she eventually realizes, albeit late, were not the best.
By marrying Mushe, a rich politician, she indeed ran away from poverty in an attempt to forget her past, only to realize later that wealth does not amount to love and happiness.
Despite the wealth, her marriage is empty, without love and attention.
Mushe’s life as an influential politician seems glamorous to Felize until she realizes that in politics there are no long-term friends or enemies.
The loneliness and deprivation of conjugal rights lead Felize into a love affair with Chola.
The concept of guardianship is discussed in this novel. We see Aunt Liseho taking Felize into her care because her parents were unable to take care of her.
They are irresponsible drunkards. She takes care of Felize all her life and through the mistakes and bad decisions, she makes just as a real mother should.
In a sense, this novel teaches us about the pain of having deadbeat parents.
We see Felize’s foster parents taking care of her through the death of her lover, Chola, whom she suspected was murdered by her husband.
Mushe neglects her, divorces her and is given full custody of the children.
Even through her rehabilitation, it is her foster family that seems to support her and still help her settle back into the society after her rehabilitation.
Felize is a typical girl who has grown up in poverty and in a dysfunctional family and wishes for a better life where there is enough food, nice clothes to wear and loving parents.
With these yearnings, she makes mistakes and bad decisions in her life that lead her into a life of depression and alcoholism.
She eventually accepts her mistakes and decides to have a fresh start.
Mushe, her husband, is selfish, self-centred, controlling and is only interested in what makes him happy.
Think of this. He rapes Felize and later confesses his love for her!
He divorces his wife to marry Felize, yet he cannot support Felize in picking up the pieces of her broken life.
He goes further to threaten Felize when she refuses to agree to the divorce!
Felize’s story makes you wonder if The Reunion is about re-uniting with herself and accepting the consequences of the wrong decisions she has made in her life or if it is the class reunion itself that made her reflect on her life from a different perspective.
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It is a very psychologically deep story and a must-read for any lady willing to avoid making costly mistakes in their life choices and for men absent when their wives need them the most.