Mara’s two sons are dead – some believe from AIDS, but Mara is rather convinced that they died because someone is jinxing her. In turn, she turns to traditional rituals to protect her family. Her two remaining children, Mosa and Stan, do not belief in the traditional ways anymore.
Botswana is the country most severely struck by the AIDS/HIV epidemic, with almost a quarter of adults carrying the virus. But also:
Botswana seems an unlikely place for an AIDS epidemic. Shortly after gaining its independence from Britain in 1966, large diamond reserves were discovered and the economy has since grown faster […] than that of virtually any other nation in the world. Education is free, corruption is rare, crime rates are low, and the nation has never been at war.
The article linked above is fascinating, by the way. It suggests that it is not primarily lack of health care or education that leads to higher infection rates, but the common practice of having multiple concurrent partners.
Far and Beyon’ deals with the aftermath of HIV/AIDS: what happens when people are dying, when the ones who are left behind believe in traditional rituals more than in modern medicine? HIV/AIDS is portrayed as a regularity of life, one that no one in particular is to blame for.
Although I can see the value of this book and found the descriptions of rituals and traditional beliefs fascinating, the story couldn’t quite grab me. The characters were, at first, difficult to tell apart and it took me about a third of the book to get everyone’s position in the family firmly in my head. It could be that I was just inattentive in the beginning, but during the first part (the funeral) all the characters seemed to fade into each other quite easily. This changes around the time of the cleansing ritual, in which the four main characters of the book – Mara, Mosa, Stan, and Nunu – become more pronounced.
The book ends with a message about empowerment, as well as with hope – hope for a future in which women speak up for themselves, and in which they are not punished for having female bodies.
Title: Far and Beyon’ Author: Unity Dow First published: 2002