Many years ago, I read City of Joy, a story so vivid, so finely drawn, and so rich with detail, that I experienced culture shock while turning pages in my own living room.
I felt those same emotions again as I read first-time novelist Vanessa Del Fabbro’s amazing book, The Road to Home.
From the first chapter, Del Fabbro’s story is devastating and beautiful. The novel begins with journalist Monica Brunetti’s visit to the black township of Soweto, South Africa.
She travels there—a place where few white South Africans are willing to go—to complete her story about the Soweto Home for Orphans; a home where children with AIDS spend their last days.
“Why do you do it?” She asks a nurse who works at the orphanage.
“I don’t want God’s little angels to be frightened and get lost on their way to heaven,” the woman answers. “So I hold their hands and love them, and they fly right up with no trouble.”
Monica, deeply affected by what she’s seen and heard, pays little attention when the nurse warns her to drive safely and watch out for the ditsotsi, or bad men. On the way home from the interview, she is ambushed and car jacked. She wakes up over a week later, barely alive, in an all-black hospital.
Monica’s accident causes serious complications in her relationship with her fiancée and with her overbearing parents. Her new friendship with courageous fellow patient Ella Nkhoma is one of the only bright spots amidst the wreckage of her life.
Breaking all cultural taboos, the two women continue their friendship during Monica’s long road to recovery and after her stay in the hospital. Their relationship brings healing to pain they each have carried for years, but they soon face a threat the greatest friendship on earth may not be able to conquer.
This book deals with serious issues that have frayed the emotions of our world and brought division and distrust for decades to the war-torn land of South Africa. Through the eyes of Monica and Ella, we are totally immersed in a different culture and given a perspective on AIDS, war, prejudice, apartheid, and injustice many may have never considered before.
I cannot say enough in praise of Del Fabbro’s sensitive treatment of these issues, or in appreciation of the beauty and lyrical style of her prose. Monica and Ella literally move and breathe in the pages of this book. They are not single-dimensional characters, but incredibly real women who represent the life, love, and hope of a nation.
This is an excellent first novel, and a story I highly recommend, with just one caveat: Before you open the covers of this book, get out your Kleenex, and prepare to be changed.
Click here to buy The Road to Home by Vanessa Del Fabbro