Of The Mire Painting A Mirage

Painting A Mirage

Painting A Mirage is a book by Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure published December 2020 by  Carnelian Heart Publishing Ltd. Painting A Mirage is Book 1 of The Mire a series of fiction novels set between post-colonial Zimbabwe and the UK, exploring an intergenerational legacy of trauma, narrated in first person through the eyes of Ruva, a 1st generation immigrant living in the UK.

Painting A Mirage is a coming of age story of Ruva, who is born in the UK and grows up in Zimbabwe in a privileged but dysfunctional family and then later migrates to the UK for education and pursuit of that ever-elusive life free from societal illusion and the toxic double standard duplicity that govern family units…

"I learnt that privilege implied I had an easy life and did not have to work for anything; yet the sad reality for me was I did in fact had to work for a lot of things, including parental love, which was supposed to be free and unconditional"

Painting A Mirage tackles some heavy themes from trauma to patriarchy and marriage punctuated with familial dysfunctionality. The book also explores privilege and the trappings of success which sometimes aren’t as they seem and of course the migrant’s story of going abroad and its disruption to families and if the grass is really greener on the other side….

The Good

Samantha spins a compelling story that will have you spellbound to plod on even through moments that you want to toss away the book yet you want to know what happens next. The characters come with a certain complexity that mirrors the duality of man like how we say one thing yet do another and some of the things which shape this internal conflict.

"Church also taught me to love neighbours and enemies, but never myself. The love for oneself was assumed through scriptures ambiguously delivered, which neglected to elaborate how one was to love themselves. This turned me into a judgmental perfectionist with no self-compassion"

And drama, yoh! Of the top of my head can’t think if I have read of a family with such drama

"I did not hold a gun to my mother’s head to make her speak. In fact, I do not recall ever asking her to divulge the state of her relationship with my father; but she did"

Bonus Point: Part of the book is set in Masvingo, a town I grew up in and could relate to the whole small-town life in a place with no traffic lights or movie houses…

The Bad

Painting A Mirage has 109 characters and it’s not what one would call a short read, it is immersive and navigating through all the aunties and uncles and the in-laws and their mind-bending drama can get a bit much, sometimes I totally forgot who was who.

With so many characters some of the lesser ones are a bit one dimensional and others though crucial to formative aspects of the story do not get enough mention… But considering this is the first book in a series I suspect some will be getting their moment in the sun as the book ends on tip that just screams: you’ll have to wait for the sequel…

The Ugly

On the whole, it’s a sad read, struggle is relentless and the happiness is fleeting. Painting a mirage is not a fairytale it may be fictional but it’s a harsh reality of the way we live our imperfect lives.

...the pain of a lack of nurturing, the lack of boundaries, hypocrisy, lies, double standards, self-centredness, lack of privacy, jealousy, control, criticism, abuse, victim blaming and shaming; some of the hallmarks of the mire we had grown up in.
-The Mirage 

Final Thoughts

Painting A Mirage gives a backdrop of how Zimbabwe has progressed in its post-independence journey from its more bountiful times through to its turbulent economic time. The book also gives some insights into Chikaranga traditions and cultures around marriage, childbirth and funerals informative though at times it was a bit jarring to the story to end up in a breakdown lesson of certain cultural practices.

~B

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