Edgy novel set in Durban

2009-10-28 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Shiva’s Dance

Elana Bregin

Jacana

GERRY wants to break free from a dysfunctional relationship with her damaged single mother, but finds her attempts at ­expression and exploration severely curtailed in a paranoid society. In reaction, she pushes the boundaries. Her games and escapades are often harrowing, but for her contemplative conversations with a visiting holy man. He breathes ­perspective into her distorted sense of reality and demonstrates serenity amid personal suffering.

Her rebelliousness is a reaction to a poisonous upbringing, informed by a dark secret that slowly unravels. The reader is drawn into an adolescent subculture of body piercings and text lingo, Facebook exposures and graffiti tagging. Typically harmless youthful expression is laced with the real dangers of a crime-ridden environment, as the graffiti gang head out onto the highway at night, where hitchhiking could result in rape and a “first-time” in the outdoors is potentially dangerous. Gerry and her high school contemporaries carry out their pubescent stunts with defiant fearlessness, leaving the reader feeling like a helpless voyeur, gripped in a ­spiral of recklessness.

In this edgy narrative, Adigar the monk and his stray dog Shiva are an oasis of tranquillity, demonstrating the peacefulness of living consciously, contrasting sharply with the vicious circle of unconscious emotional ­turmoil and angst lived out by Gerry and her dramatic mother in their turbulent dance.

The story is set in Durban, making it very real and relevant for local readers, but the message is universal. Past novels by the Durban-based author include the biographical Kalahari Rainsong (co-authored with Belinda Kruiper, 2004), the award-winning Slayer of Shadows (1996) and the popular young adult novel, The Red Haired Khumalo (1994).

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