Cover image for House of stone : a novel
Title:
House of stone : a novel
Title:
House of stone : a novel
Edition:
First American edition.
Publisher Info:
New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.
Physical Description:
374 pages ; 25 cm
Abstract:
"Abednego and Agnes Mlambo's teenage son, Bukhosi, has gone missing, and the Mlambos fear the worst. Their enigmatic lodger, Zamani, seems to be their last, best hope for finding him. Since Bukhosi's disappearance, Zamani has been preternaturally helpful: hanging missing posters in downtown Bulawayo, handing out fliers to passersby, and joining in family prayer vigils with the flamboyant Reverend Pastor from Agnes's Blessed Anointings church. It's almost like Zamani is part of the family. But almost isn't nearly enough for Zamani. He ingratiates himself with Agnes and feeds alcoholic Abednego's addiction, desperate to extract their life stories and steep himself in borrowed family history, as keenly aware as any colonialist or power-mad despot that the one who controls the narrative inherits the future. As Abednego wrestles with the ghosts of his past and Agnes seeks solace in a deep-rooted love, their histories converge and each must confront the past to find their place in a new Zimbabwe"-- Provided by publisher.

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Summary

Summary

In the chronic turmoil of modern Zimbabwe, Abednego and Agnes Mlambo's teenage son, Bukhosi, has gone missing, and the Mlambos fear the worst. Their enigmatic lodger, Zamani, seems to be their last, best hope for finding him. Since Bukhosi's disappearance, Zamani has been preternaturally helpful: hanging missing posters in downtown Bulawayo, handing out fliers to passersby, and joining in family prayer vigils with the flamboyant Reverend Pastor from Agnes's Blessed Anointings church. It's almost like Zamani is part of the family...

But almost isn't nearly enough for Zamani. He ingratiates himself with Agnes and feeds alcoholic Abednego's addiction, desperate to extract their life stories and steep himself in borrowed family history, as keenly aware as any colonialist or power-mad despot that the one who controls the narrative inherits the future. As Abednego wrestles with the ghosts of his past and Agnes seeks solace in a deep-rooted love, their histories converge and each must confront the past to find their place in a new Zimbabwe.

Pulsing with wit, seduction, and dark humor, House of Stone is a sweeping epic that spans the fall of Rhodesia through Zimbabwe's turbulent beginnings, exploring the persistence of the oppressed in a young nation seeking an identity, but built on forgetting.


Author Notes

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma grew up in Zimbabwe and lives in Houston, Texas. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Displaced, edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Her short story collection, Shadows, won the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize and was longlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and serves on the editorial advisory board and is a fiction editor at the Bare Life Review, a journal of refugee and immigrant literature based San Francisco.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in 2007 Zimbabwe, Tshuma's darkly humorous debut follows Zamani, a 20-something lodger who decides to integrate himself into the lives of his landlords after their teenage son, Bukhosi, vanishes while accompanying Zamani to an anti-Mugabe political rally. As parents Abednego and Agnes search for the teen and emotionally tailspin, Zamani begins calling the duo his surrogate parents and listens to their histories. After plying recovering alcoholic Abednego with booze and drugs over several nights, Zamani learns of the man's first love, Thandi, as well as Abednego's involvement in an unsolved murder. The lodger manipulates Agnes into talking, after a drunk Abednego beats her one evening, and hears of his surrogate mother's own first love, a reverend, and of her arranged marriage to Abednego. Zamani strings his host family along by creating a fake Facebook account for Bukhosi and sending reassuring messages from the boy, all the while working to take Bukhosi's place in the family's home-his motivations for which are revealed late in the story. Though the tangents are sometimes overlong, Tshuma's novel bounces through time and bursts with an epic's worth of narratives. This is a clever, entertaining novel. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Even a single unreliable narrator can add layers of complexity to storytelling that might be difficult to parse. Tshuma's ambitious debut features not one but three such narrators whose smoke-and-mirrors tales leave the reader wondering where the truth really hides. But that doesn't matter, especially if, as one narrator points out: Truth is optics. This central premise lays the foundation for much of the novel, which is built on modern Zimbabwe's chaotic past. I am a man on a mission, says Zamani, a young man who is trying to ingratiate himself into his friend Bukhosi's family after Bukhosi goes missing during a rally held by the Mthwakazi Secessionist Movement. Zamani slowly shakes loose the family's story, which follows the country's fractured history. Zamani's opaque motivations distance the reader from the narrative, and sometimes the plot struggles under the weight of its hefty ambitions. But Tshuma ultimately delivers nuance and eloquent character studies, proving that an ugly history leaves no soul unscarred in its wake.--Poornima Apte Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

DEBUT In this strong first novel for Zimbabwe-born Tshuma, narrator Zamani possesses many qualities of the classically defined unreliable narrator, particularly deception. Desperate to create a family for himself, he exploits the grief and flaws of his landlords, Abednego and Mama Agnes Mlambo. Their only son, Bukhosi, has recently gone missing from their home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, which presents Zamani with the opportunity to assume Bukhosi's role and remake his own troubled history. Zamani pillages the couple's past to learn more of his would-be family's origins and uses their shame against them while gradually ingratiating himself into a position wherein he controls the story of Bukhosi's disappearance. As Zamani gleans details of the Mlambos' past, Tshuma chronicles the country's violent transformation from colonial Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, often translated as "house of stone" from the Shona. The graphic accounts provided by Abednego and Mama Agnes focus on the military massacres of civilians known collectively as Gukurahundi and are mercifully counterbalanced by Tshuma's poetical writing and her insertions of dark humor. VERDICT A fascinating, often disturbing metaphor for Zimbabwe's struggle to emerge from its colonial past and remember rather than erase its history; highly recommended and a solid fictional counterpart to Christina Lamb's House of Stone: The True Story of a Family Divided in War-Torn Zimbabwe. [See Prepub Alert, 7/16/18.]-Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.