HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING by Rutendo Tavengerwei is a lovely story that contains a determined balance of grief and hope. I graciously obtained this ARC from Soho Teen who kindly sent it to me for an honest review.
Spoilers will start after the short summary during the extended review:
For fifteen-year-old Shamiso, struggling with grief and bewilderment following her father’s death, hope is nothing but a leap into darkness.
For Tanyaradzwa, whose life has been turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis, hope is the only reason to keep fighting.
As the two of them form an unlikely friendship, Shamiso begins to confront her terrible fear of loss. In getting close to another person, particularly someone who’s ill, isn’t she just opening herself up to more pain? And underpinning it all – what did happen to her father, the night of that strange and implausible car crash?
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Why I was interested: The book is a modern historical fiction story set during the 2008 Zimbabwe elections and the surrounding political turmoil. There are not many opportunities to read modern historical fiction — especially one not focused on the United States nor Europe — so I was immediately excited.
Judge a book by it’s cover: I love the cover I was given which focuses on a feather with a young girl’s face on it — possibly either Shamiso’s or Tanyaradzwa’s.
What to expect: At first notice, this book is much shorter than your typical 350 page book. It runs at about 200 pages, about novella length, and is a quick yet emotional read. Tavengerwei does a great job pulling from Shamiso’s and Tanyaradzwa’s POVs along with a scattering of others. Both girls learn about friendship and accomplishing grief together but you also learn about what Zimbabwe was like in 2008. The only thing I wish was added to the end of the story would be a historical note as I really love reading them and understanding how the story fits in general history, especially the history of a country and time which might not be studied or generally understood.
Why you should pick this book up: If you are looking for a quick and enjoyable standalone that is about a place and time you may not have much knowledge about, then this is definitely a read for you. Tavengerwei creates a well-rounded showcase of the 2008 Zimbabwe election through the eyes of Shamiso and Tanyaradzwa.
Want more?: If you enjoyed HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING, check out Tavengerwei’s other story set in Harare, THE COLOURS THAT BLIND.
ATTENTION: IF YOU HAVE YET TO READ HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING do not continue reading. The following contains spoilers for the book.
While Tavengerwei’s HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING is only about 200 pages, it packs a serious emotional punch.
While Shamiso is trying to settle with the idea that her journalist father has died, she is determined that he did not perish by drunk driving as the reports are saying. She wonders if something more sinister happened. If this isn’t hard enough, she moves from the UK to Zimbabwe, the country of her parents, and to a new boarding school where she feels out of place.
Tanyaradzwa, her roommate, is settling with the idea that her cancer has come back and she might not survive this round. She tries to also keep it hidden as she continues to live her life and sing even though the cancer is wrapping itself around her vocal cords.
On a larger scale beyond the school, Harare and all of Zimbabwe is being impacted by a lack of food and money that is worthless due to fluctuating rates. This impacts both girls families: when Shamiso’s mother is not trying to find work cleaning homes, she is waiting in long lines to obtain bread and other food that will hopefully be there when she reaches the front of the line. For Tanyaradzwa, her parents are constantly leaving the country to keep their business afloat as she tries to obtain expensive procedures through an ever-depreciating currency.
When both girls learn how to open up to one another of their situations, they learn they are more alike than different. Both girls have previously pushed friends away in harsh times, but by investing in each other, they help push through their own levels of grief.
In the climax, Shamiso admits that she considers Tanyaradzwa a good friend in hopes she will wake up from her coma. Tanyaradzwa had always tried to encourage Shamiso to be optimistic and she finally learns this lesson at this low time.
Tavengerwei’s HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING may be a quick read, but it has layers of important depth that encourages optimism and friendship. I look forward to reading her other story soon.
What did you think of Rutendo Tavengerwei’s HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING? I’d love to hear your comments below!
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