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Book review: Sweet Medicine

JOHANNESBURG — This book is a vital read for young women coming to terms with the various roles of women, and an important reminder of the societal effects of hardship. Sweet Medicine written by South Africa-based Zimbabwean Panashe Chigumadzi is published by Blackbird Books, an imprint of Jacana Media.

Women24

Tsitsi graduated with a degree in economics amid Zimbabwe’s economic downfall. Desperate to fulfil her dreams of working in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and not wanting to disappoint her mother, Tsitsi must find work in a notoriously difficult economic environment.

Believing that her years of hard work, dedication and prayer will secure a comfortable future, it is with anguish that she realises that her degree no longer holds the weight she once imagined.

As such, Tsitsi resorts to unconventional methods to ensure hers and her family’s financial security.

A Catholic-raised in a strict household, Tsitsi enlists the help of her friend Chiedza to undergo a transformation that will enable her unconventional plan to work.

Her mission is to seduce an older, wealthier man guaranteed to look after her financially; Mr Zvobgo. However, in order for this to come to fruition, he must leave his wife.

Once Tsitsi has secured Zvobgo, she must keep him. In an increasingly difficult relationship and amid ever-growing paranoia, Tsitsi goes against all she believes and seeks the assistance of a traditional African n’anga to do what she would previously believe unthinkable.

Yet with so much to lose, Tsitsi will do whatever it takes to keep the status quo. Sweet Medicine is a delightfully fresh exploration of the desperation incited by the need for security, and the depths to which a woman can go to ensure her and her family’s comfort.

Simultaneously beautiful and poignant, the narrative flows poetically.

Comfortably placed in an African context, the novel examines the power of faith and its many faces, as well as the position of a woman who is both strong and weak. A clever internal power struggle plays out through Tsitsi’s actions, making her a relatable and inspiring protagonist that demonstrates the weight and reach of sacrifice.

Sweet Medicine is telling of the realities of a broken world; hard work does not always mean what we would imagine. A vital read for young women coming to terms with the various roles of women, and an important reminder of the societal effects of hardship.

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