Within the novel, we are witness to tragedy after tragedy. Everything that could go wrong goes wrong and the glimmers of light and hope are practically non-existent for Chanda. We see how her family is divided by death, disease, and depression and she is forced to abandon all her potential elsewhere in order to prematurely take up the role of carer.
This very clearly paints a vivid image of the cruel way of life for people such as Chanda in developing nations. There is no financial security and any raft of stability they find is quickly sunk in a multitude of ways. It is the relentless onslaught of misery that quickly cements within the mind of a reader just how difficult life is for these people.
However, we can look deeper and notice the part that the role of women plays in this and its relationship to the role of men. We see how all of the woes of Chanda’s life spawn when her father dies and the family loses its anchor forcing Chanda’s mother on a cycle of suitor after suitor in order to keep a roof over their heads.
We see this cycle pit Chanda with a variety of men, all possessing their own problems and sometimes their own evils. We see the women in the novel being entirely reliant upon the role of a man and how they cannot easily survive without it. It is only through rare charity that they may find survival elsewhere. By doing so, we may also get a glimpse into the society of these nations.
Chanda’s friend becomes a sex worker in order to make her money but it is because of this decision that she eventually dies after contracting AIDS. The very thing she chose to do in order to survive cost her, her life. We also see the same situation replay when Chanda’s mother passes away and we discover she has also contracted AIDS from her life of jumping between partners.
We see that these women are forced to dig their own graves in order to live. They must do the things they don’t want to do because they cannot support themselves. It is the grand tragedy of the novel, to die in order to live. One can argue that Stratton might also be attempting to highlight the insulting fact of society to judge those who have AIDS or are forced into lives they do not want to lead.
It is society that often forces the weak and weary into positions they do not want to take and lives they do not want to lead and these lives expose them to such things as AIDS. However, after being forced into such a lifestyle and unfortunately feeling its pains by society, that same society will judge and ostracise them and alienate them. Chanda’s entire life is ruined, tainted, manipulated, and sent off-course by society and her every anchor is lost.
Chanda, however, represents the resilience and amazing optimism in humanity. She soldiers on, overcomes the trials before her, and takes responsibility for things she shouldn’t have to. She is the strength present in every person, the heart and fight that struggles but persists against everything else. Chanda is her own hope in a seemingly hopeless world.
Chanda’s mother is not herself, her younger sister is acting out, and her best friend needs help. A powerful story set amid the African HIV/AIDS pandemic. In this sensitive, swiftly paced story, readers will find echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird as Chanda, a 16-year-old, astonishingly perceptive girl living in the small city of Bonang in Africa, must confront the undercurrents of shame and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Through his artful style and dramatic storytelling, Allan Stratton captures the enduring strength of loyalty, the profound impact of loss, and a fearlessness that is powered by the heart. Above all, it is a story about living with truth. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to support organizations working to better the lives of Africans living with HIV/AIDS.