The Uncertainty of Hope- Valerie Tagwira

Review by Dakarayi Jane


This book is heavy. As I write this review, I’m not sure how to phrase how I’m feeling about what I’ve read. Why? It’s because everything  that Valerie Tagwira wrote has more truth in it than fiction, and that is tragic. Abuse, secrets, privilege vs poverty, custom versus rights: Tagwira talks about it all, and it’s time we start to join in on the conversation as difficult as it is.

Domestic abuse is very real, and also very much kept secret unfortunately. I kept thinking that if I were Onai, I would leave and go back home. Why should I suffer at the hands of someone else’s child? Yet, reading on, I came to realise that it’s not always as black and white as it should be. In Onai’s case, secrecy had long since lifted and everyone in Mbare knew about her husband’s abusive tendencies. At the rate they were going, she risked being killed suffering at the hands of the man whom we are not sure ever loved her. So why does she stay? She stays because her kids are young and still in school. She stays because she doesn’t want to be the first divorcee in her family. She also stays because she has nowhere else to go and won’t make her children homeless with her. Ironically, through the veil of hatred and fear, I suspected that she stayed because part of her wanted to make it work. She was waiting for him to change. He didn’t.

Katy and John were happy despite constantly risking being arrested for illegally selling foreign currency. Yet, what could they have done? They had to pay their daughter’s university tuition and desperately wanted out of the poverty of Mbare. Yet, the line between law and lawlessness is a thing one and, quite frankly, it is easily crossed.

Faith and Tom came from two very different socioeconomic backgrounds, but they loved each other. She wants to graduate and become a women’s rights lawyer, and Tom supports her, but he just doesn’t understand how hard life is when you don’t come from money.

Set in 2005, there are many facets of Zimbabwean life that Tagwira touches on. From the cultural pressure that keeps Onai in her marriage, to the economic hardships that force them all to tread the line of the law to survive. It wasn’t an easy read because it forces you to acknowledge realities that have become the norm despite having no justifications. I had many questions and few answers, which left me feeling frustrated at the injustices portrayed page after page. How many bribes does it take before you start to pay more than what the actual value of what you need is worth? Why is it that Onai had face the risk of HIV due to her husband’s promiscuity? When the people of Mbare are displaced, why does it take months of waiting and surprise payments to be given housing that was meant to be both free and quickly available? How many funerals did they have to attend before someone had a conscience? Was it right for Rita to have to stop going to school because the boys groped her on the journey there despite her being a child?

As far as reviewing it, all I can say is that this is one of those books you just have to read for yourself. It’s eye opening, thought provoking, and questions a lot about what we as citizens, and women, have come to accept as day to day life. Even if you’re not Zimbabwean, you should read it because I suspect you’ll find something that impacts you a great deal. Rich or poor, male or female, this is a book about people and their lives. I think we should at least acknowledge that this is someone’s truth.