Book Review: The Polygamist by Sue Nyathi


Heh leh Jonasi

Heh yeh Jonasi

Loving you has taught me

To never let go of a good thing

Loving you has taught me never to lie

I hate telling a lie…

This is the beginning of Stimela’s hit song I Hate Telling A Lie with Ray Phiri as lead vocalist and on lead guitar. This song played in my head when I started reading The Polygamist, Sue Nyathi’s debut novel, centered around a rich powerful man named Jonasi. However the protagonist is nothing like the serenading lover in the song. Jonasi in the novel, lies without compunction and never stops, lying even to himself.

This story of begins with the account of Jonasi’s funeral with all the women in his life gathered to bid him farewell. Jonasi in death is far from the handsome virile lover, husband and father they experienced in life. Set in Harare, Zimbabwe, the city that never sleeps, there’s a grim contrast in the lives of the have-nots living in the township and the fabulously well-heeled living in the Northern suburbs. Then as the economy tanks, even the wealthy feel the pinch as everyone tries to make a living, hustling in whatever way they know how.

The story is told from the point of view of each of the women as they experience the sorrows and fleeting joys of loving a selfish man who never really belongs to any of them. In his own words, he loves them for very different reasons. Each of the women’s stories is different. What motivated them to get into this relationship, to stay or in some cases to leave, albeit in different ways?

The children react in different ways as each child’s dream of the perfect family is shattered by the drama in the making, unmaking and remaking of the relationships between their father and each of their mothers. The extended family have their own view of the situation and treat it with delicacy to avoid upsetting Jonasi and losing out on the benefits

The novel is a gripping read. Sue has a wicked sense of humour and the ability to get you to laugh at what are dire situations in the book. There are such gems as ‘ my wife had more game than a soccer team’ and when the youngest of the women describes the older men she slept with, saying: ‘ Their asses are so wrinkled sometimes I have to ask myself if it’s flesh I’m holding onto or a mohair throw.’ If you want to see more gems, follow her on @SueNyathi on Twitter.

The Polygamist takes a brutally honest look at marriages and love affairs. It’s an unforgettable read that will make you rethink relationships and people’s motivations for entering and staying in them.

follow me on twitter @NomaDzino

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