Book Review: Endings and Beginnings by Redi Tlhabi

In this book, Redi takes us back into her childhood with the purpose of finding healing and moving on with her life. This narrative piece is set in the socio-politcal conditions of the apartheid era Soweto as well as Lesotho.

The main focus is on Mabegzo, a gangster she befriended as an eleven year old girl. He was in his twenties while she was eleven; during their friendship she only knew the affectionate and caring side of him and they grew fond of each other. He was never violent towards her, but behaved like her older brother. He killed Siphiwe, a guy who would bully and scare Redi in the township of Orlando East.

An adult Redi goes back to her childhood neighbourhood to find answers regarding Mabegzo’s life; from his lonely childhood to his tragic death. She meets and talks with relatives extensively in order to understand what kind of a person he really was and why he ended up as a gangster. He was from a humble home.

By finding out the details of his childhood from his mother Imelda as well as his grandmother really helped Redi, and us, understand what Mabegzo went through. He was born as a result of his mother being raped and was taken away from his mother at the age of four to be raised by his grandmother.

Redi learns to deal with the negative feelings of resentment and disgust towards Mabegzo even though he has died. His actions and circumstances may have made him behave like a monster.

This journey also helps her unite Mabegzo’s son with his grandmother (Mabegzo’s mother).

The title (Endings and Beginnings) is appropriate as Redi found a way to end the pain and move on from the pain she experienced. The beginnings are the bond Mabegzo’s son and mother can have. Some good came out of this journey. The major themes in this story are forgiveness and healing.

I highly recommend this book as it also contains a bit of South African history. It is from the perspective of the author, through her experiences as a girl who grew up in Soweto. It also displays the hurt and pain families had to deal with due to the socio-political conditions of our past.

This makes one realise that people do not just end up being gangsters but various factors influence this outcome.

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