I have 2 sisters, both older than me and both very different from each other. While the oldest is firm, a perfectionist and loyal follower of all things involving history (she could give you a blow-by-blow account of the Royal family in one breath), the arts and old school RnB music, the other is a free-spirited 18year-old at heart, who loves everything that involves a lot of people, a lot of eating, a lot of drinking, basically a lot of everything! I’ve made the substantiated conclusion that in her previous life she was either a groupie or a hippie (your choice sis).
But I love them to bits. Everyone that knows me knows that I consider my sisters the best thing to ever happen to me, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything! Even a million dollars cash. This is a very bold statement considering the fact that my love and constant pursuit for money is always the first and the last thing on my mind every night (Yep. I don’t even judge the women that are into blessers, even though I personally wouldn’t go that far). My sisters are my life line; they make me laugh, cry and everything in between.
I have always considered myself blessed for having a piece of their personalities within me. As much as I enjoy partying the night away with my free-spirited sibling, I enjoy sipping wine, discussing the mutual love of literature with my oldest sister. A couple of months ago, she introduced me to a local read by a chubby, young local journalist and author by night, Miss Dudu Busani Dube titled “Hlomu The Wife”. I would be lying if I said I jumped to it with eagerness. I was sceptical. I have never been a reader of local content, which is embarrassing I know, but whatever, I said it. Yes, like her I am into fictional romance novels like Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook (which is my all-time favourite and way better than the movie), novels that include romance, power, money, sex and shocking twists like everything Jackie Collins has ever decided to pen down, oh and EVERTYHING Sylvia Day has ever touched (Bared To You started it all…). But a local read? I don’t know. But I later decided, what the heck. I could use a distraction to kill some time while waiting for my latest Gideon Cross fix.
But then this book did something. Within the first 5 pages, this book had me. It is written in the simplest of English (kinda like my blog), there is absolutely no reason to ever have to whip out Mr Oxford to help you understand what is happening. I found myself wanting to find out more, occasionally rolling my eyes at the way the main character acted in some situations, but still, I wanted to find out more. I couldn’t help it. In an instant, I was hooked.
The story is narrated by the main character, a young 22 year old journalist named Mahlomu Dladla who was born and bred in the township of KwaMashu in Durban and has now been living in Johannesburg for 6 months, working at a media house in Auckland Park. Through the first couple of pages, the writer takes us through the journey of being a young professional trying to make it in the city of gold, something most of us can relate to. There is a line in the book that highlights this; she writes: “everyone comes to Johannesburg for something. Some find it; some lose themselves trying to find it”. I was gripped. I wanted to read more about this young woman who, like I once did, was living in Berea Johannesburg, had to endure taxis in order to get to work, had to deal with the responsibility of having to make it on her own without her parents by her side, all while trying to keep her job. I needed more! Little did I know what I was getting myself into!
Ok, back to Hlomu. One day, while queuing for a taxi in Bree taxi rank, Johannesburg, she gets ambushed by a taxi driver who fancies her. He starts pursuing her, bordering on stalking if you ask me, and although she was not really into him (the man is a taxi driver), she cannot help but keep thinking about him. Eventually, a romance ensues. But this is not just any romance; it is a romance with Mqhele Zulu (that’s his name, beautiful isn’t it?). It is romance with a man who is deeply rooted into the taxi industry. As she later finds out, he is not just a taxi driver but a taxi owner. Now you may think this is pretty much the same thing, but as Hlomu’s gay twin brother in the book says, socially, this fact doesn’t make a difference, but economically, it does! You need to keep in mind though, the taxi industry in South Africa is not just about driving up and down, hoping the money paid in each taxi trip is complete. It is one of the most successful black-owned industries in our country, and ruled by the most hard-headed people in the country too, the Zulu nation. It’s about power, control, violence and on numerous cases, brutal killing. And Mqhele’s involvement was no different. Being 1 of 8 boys, him and his brothers lost their parents to a fire instigated for their warlord father by a mob of angry members of the community, tired of all the havoc he was causing within their village. That night, they had to run away from their family home, the oldest being 17, the youngest being only 8 months old.
Hlomu and Mqhele’s relationship, and later, marriage, is a difficult one, to say the least. Mqhele is a closed book. Even though he loves her with all he is and has, and she is well aware of that mutual fact, she constantly has to try to get him to open up, to tell her about his shady dealings which he tries to protect her from so much, even to tell her when she too is in danger. They go through ups and downs, (hectic ups and downs!), ranging from crazy exes to dangerous enemies seeking revenge for the killings his father organized or was involved in, and everything in between. With that, they also go through the “usual” problems faced in marriages today too; insecurity, possessiveness, domestic violence, infidelity, the list is endless. But through it all, their love stays strong. Theirs is a toxic one, as though they live for each other, and in many instances, the way in which they fight surpasses the reason why they are fighting, making it all the more harder to get through it. Hlomu, being the senior wife since Mqhele was the first of his brothers to get married, also tends to his troublesome brothers, who, like Mqhele, are also taxi owners, are also dangerous and come with their own drama. The eldest brother, Nkosana, has 3 children, boys, to which Hlomu immediately had to assume the role of a mother (tough, heh?). Where is their mother, you ask? I won’t tell you! Spoilers are not my style.
To say the least, I am in love with these books. I say these books because it’s a trilogy, each narrated by the wives of the different brothers. The second book, Zandile The Resolute tells the story of Nkosana’s wife whilst the third, Naledi His Love, tells the story of Qhawe’s wife, another one of the brothers. Call me crazy but just hearing these names makes my heart melt. Let me give you a rundown of exactly how beautiful they are: NKOSANA (meaning The Heir), NQOBIZITHA (Conqueror of enemies), MQHELE (Crown), QHAWE (Hero), SAMBULO (Revelations), MQOQIWOKUHLE (Collector of beautiful things), MPANDE (Roots) and NTSIKA (Pillar). Like!!!
The Zulu brothers are just that, Zulu. As the author describes them, they are tall, dark, beautiful men with BIG eyes, (they call them “zoom-lenses”, one wife calls them “xenon-lights” lol). In a span of 10 years, which is the total account of the book from the day Hlomu and Mqhele met, they moved from being typical taxi drivers who eat skop at the rank and answer to any threat with beatings and revenge, to eligible bachelors (except for Mqhele of course), who are hot and can undress any woman just by looking their way. They are mysterious, command respect whenever they walk into a room, and whisper money. Note that, they don’t scream out money with shiny suits and glittering Rolex watches, no, they whisper money. ARGHHH! I get all tingly just thinking about it! (Don’t judge me; you’ll be feeling that too).
The story is captivating and riveting, served with a dose of humour, traditional elements that we have all at one point or another have had to be accustomed to or have someone we know go through, intrigue and eye-balling moments that put Titanic to shame. There was a time when I read a certain chapter while sitting in a bus on my way to work and a lady next to me asked me if I’m ok. I didn’t realize that I was looking at my tablet with tears streaming down my face. I’m an emotional person by nature but this book had moments of sadness on steroids! It comes with lessons too, the psyche of the 21st century South African black woman, intelligent and raised to be independent, but in love with a man who wants to do everything and anything for her. A woman who has to conform to tradition to which her husband is deeply rooted in, to a life of violence and guns, to a life of wealth and luxury, a life of a toxic love where you just can’t seem to wrap your head around the fact that you could have so much love in your heart, mind, body and soul, all for one person. All that, while also trying to raise a family of your own and 8 grown men.
I will say it again; I am in love with the Hlomu series. It gives me bucket loads of nostalgia to the days of Drum magazine and their short stories about the life WE live, the life we as black women were given and are still given to this day. The struggles and rewards of being in love with the South African black man. And not just any love, a toxic love. A love full of anger for the things you cannot change, a love that surpasses hurt and humiliation, a love that is both beautiful and dangerous at the same time. A love you should keep away from, but just can’t get enough of. Dudu Busani Dube is a writing goddess. She reignited my love for black love. I’m not talking the Christian Grey, wine and dine love, no, I’m talking about black love. The “I’m-bringing-cows-to-your-family” type of love. The love that the popular TV show Isibaya reignited. Yes, the Mpiyakhe love (you know what I’m talkin’ about!) I applaud her for making the untold stories of black women in South Africa something of public knowledge. Something in written text. Something for us to enjoy and devour.
All 3 books are available on www.myafricanbuy.com. Try them. You’ll love them!