Review of Running with Mother

'Wasafiri' Issue 2015

Chioniso and Other Stories
Shimmer Chinodya

Running with Mother
Christopher Mlalazi

Reviewed by Ranka Primorac

In these two engaging books by male Zimbabwean authors (one well established, the other coming up fast). The hackneyed notion of 'the Zimbabwean crisis' gives way to thoughtful probing of the continuities of love, suffering and change.

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Review: Running With Mother - Harare News

Rudo, the protagonist in the story is set against a problem, a violent conflict in her village – which leads to an escape for her and her mother and aunt. The danger the protagonist faces is emphasised by stages as the tension slowly builds up to a dramatic climax.

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Review: Running With Mother - The Zimbabwean

Running with Mother by Christopher Mlalazi.
Weaver Press, 140 pp.

Published in The Zimbabwean
Issue 44. 2.11.12

It would be easy to be deceived by the unassuming language of this short novel, is set in a sudden moment of turbulence in the early history of independent Zimbabwe. The story of the flight from the village where relatives had been killed reads like a thriller. And the dialogue between the family members is laced with trust: that the government doesn’t know what is happening and that when they find out they will ‘do something.’ When they eventually see army trucks and helicopters from the distance of the mountains where they are hiding, they think now the government is acting.

Painfully slowly it dawns on the fleeing family that this is an attack on their people. Running with Mother conveys a powerful message about our recent history: people are uninformed about what is happening in the country and even when they come to understand it they feel helpless to do anything about it.

The story is told through the eyes of a child, and the chapters are brief, as in a children’s book. Rudo, whose mother is Shona, is allowed to go home while her three companions returning from school, all Ndebeles, are detained by soldiers, and stripped of their clothes; what happens next is left to our imagination. We never hear of the girls again. Rudo, her mother and aunt and a little baby flee to the mountains and a cave associated with the freedom struggle of only a few years before. You close the book numb with shock. This is a novel, but like much good fiction it explores a truth, a reality that we might prefer to forget.

As a simple tool of education, of recent history and of civic awareness, this novel will be hard to surpass. How one wishes that it would find its way into the hands of many people. I think it was the late Moven Mahachi who spoke of the events that form the context of this story as a ‘moment of madness’. We must hope that such moments never occur again.