This week CLR presents Ayodele Morocco-Clarke's review of Big Pieces, Little Pieces, the StoryTime short story by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. Enjoy!
Big Pieces, Little Pieces is a short story by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. In this story, the writer explores the burning issue of domestic abuse. The story is told in the second person narrative style which has the resultant effect of transporting the reader right into the middle of the sequence of unfolding events.
Big Pieces, Little Pieces opens by showing the reader the autocratic nature of the patriarchal figure in the household, rapidly unfurling into a catalogue of abuse of horrific magnitude. Whilst reading, one wonders why the wife does not take the children and run, run, run. Surely anything would be better than subjecting oneself and one’s offspring to erratic, irrational behaviour and regular physical abuse.
The story is even more heartbreaking as it is told from the point of view of one of the children who has lived with and through this constant abuse. The story reveals that though the father rules the roost with an iron fist, the abused wife attracts no support or sympathy from her sister-in-law despite her seeing clear evidence of the abuse. She actually lays the blame of all the violence on the victim trying to exonerate her brother, justifying his actions on the ground that “he was the head of the family and knew what was best for everyone.” To add salt to the wound, she then goes on to accuse the wife of bringing forth the wrath of her brother and refuses to intervene despite heartfelt pleas to do so. In her words –
“I have never seen such a woman, honestly! Is it my fault that you do not know how to appease your husband, that you anger him all the time? I will say it again, lo yiwo umendo.”
And so, the abuse continues unabated, culminating in a series of events which though do not shock, but nevertheless saddens the reader while following the story as it hurtles rapidly to its end.
The downside I found in the story was where it appeared the writer confused a bit of narration with what should really have been dialogue and sometimes what really is dialogue is not properly denoted as such (But that may just be me being pedantic as the writer might have chosen to adopt in parts the Nadine Gordimer-esque style used in “The Pickup”, although this would be inconsistent with other parts of the dialogue employed). These minute niggling points however do not take away from the beauty of a well narrated story.
With this story, one can see that Tshuma is an emerging writer with immense promise. Big Pieces, Little Pieces is one of the StoryTime stories which were selected for publication in the short story anthology “African Roar” out in late April 2010. Watch out for African Roar and Tshuma. Both should surely be worth reading.
[Ayodele Morocco-Clarke is a Nigerian lawyer and writer of mixed heritage who has a passion for literature. She is the editor of Critical Literature Review and her written works have appeared in Author Africa 2009, Hackwriters (a University of Portsmouth magazine), Sphere Literary Magazine, Storytime, Author-Me and on The Clarity of Night blog. She also has work forthcoming in Mimi Magazine, The Anthology of Immigrant Writing(2010) and African Roar [2010 short story anthology, co-published by Lion Press and StoryTime]. Ayodele hopes to publish an anthology of short fiction soon and is currently working on her first novel.]
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