Rain: Washing filth off the world

HARARE - The Latter Rain; By Phillip Kundeni Chidavaenzi; Harare, New Heritage Press, 2016.

244 Pages

ISBN: 978-0-7974-5784-3 (Paperback)

WHEN I read The Ties That Bind some time last year, I thought I had come across the best from Chidavaenzi.

There was no way he could produce another gem — so touching in terms of emotional depth, the intimacy with the reader, and all that my fixated judgment could ever come up with.

However, a year later, I am begrudgingly going to revise my earlier verdict as Chidavaenzi has pushed the bar even higher with his latest offering, The Latter Rain.

It is an intriguing read both for those who would want to treat it as a source of enjoyment as well as the serious reader, one on the lookout for specific aspects of a work of art — narrative, thematic, stylistic, characterisation among others.

The Latter Rain maintains the flow of The Ties That Bind in that it reflects on real life. There is no denying the fact that the plot rests on real-life experiences parallel to none.

It touches on almost the entire range of human experience — family, friends, work and several other platforms on which people meet regularly. Perhaps more touching is the breadth of the thematic concerns Chidavaenzi tackles.

You get to meet life and death, love and hate, revenge and forgiveness, debauchery and promiscuity, mourning, friendship, betrayal,

betrothal, spiritual healing versus modern medical knowledge, abortion, the frailties associated with beauty pageants, exploitation of women and womanhood among a plethora of other thematic concerns.

The whole spectrum of female characters in the book — Dorothy, Divine, Isabel, Lorna, Mainini Marita, Rosina and Girls la Erotica, Diana, Deliwe, MaDube and others — represents different aspects of the life of a woman.

The reader encounters the strong, the weak and those who are taken advantage of in a society that has seen young women seeking refuge in the capital city — Harare — that does not seem sympathetic to them.

The male characters Chidavaenzi dwells on are not the usual who take the initiative in the typical African patriarchal setup.

The men, perhaps with the exception of Madzibaba Josiah and Richard Masocha, seem contend to play peripheral roles. The likes of Josh, Uncle Jeff, Mr Anonymous, Austin Gatu, Jude Helms, Nigel Sono and others “drool” at the sight of a woman, further showing their gullibility.

“When she told Lorna the incident the following day, they giggled like foolish school girls about how men could become so helpless before women.” (p39-40)

It appears Chidavaenzi has a strong loathing of pageants and the way they are run in the country.

Zimbabwe has a number of pageants and the reader is left to judge for themselves their credibility.

Chidavaenzi’s narrative technique in The Latter Rain is the third person point of view, which intermittently switches to the first person, giving the reader a refreshing intimacy with the characters and plot.

The greatest strength Chidavaenzi shows in the The Latter Rain is how he flashes back and forth with the plot, while maintaining an unusual effectiveness. For instance, we encounter Dorothy first as she retraces her steps from Harare to Mt Darwin for her father’s funeral which she has heard of from a close friend — Isabel.

The writer later tells the reader how things have reached the current state where her parents have disowned her.

Chidavaenzi deliberately avoids giving the readers the plot in linear form obviously to whet the readers’ appetite as well as arouse their interest and anxiety to prowl into the unknown.

We only learn later that Dorothy’s father, Jethro Muredzi, had been ravaged by hunger to the extent of selling off his daughter to Madzibaba Josiah.

Harare is a real jungle for all those who have not found God, including those who pretend to have done so. The likes of Lisbon Mathe automatically come to mind.

The speed at which things move in the capital is not consistent with rural girls like Dorothy and Isabel. Isabel is devoured by the city and it is clear her demise is a result of her failure to find the protection of Jesus like Dorothy and Diana.

The poignancy of her letter to Dorothy is heart-rending. The reader feels with Dorothy in the loss. However, one feels Isabel should have been afforded another chance.

Perhaps one of the strengths of Chidavaenzi’s book lies in how he crafts the denouement of the book.

It appears the good have been rewarded and the bad have not had it so good. Josh had found his way back into the Masocha family after reconciling with Dorothy.

“The fact that Josh and his father could speak without the reservation of the past cured Josh of something that he had never been able to name. It gave him a real sense of belonging,  of being home after a long journey through the wilderness, a journey during which he had felt perhaps there would never be an arrival. But he was there at long last . . .” (p234)

Dorothy could not have reunited with her family at a better time than after she is back with Josh. Madzibaba Josiah — who had traumatised her father into the grave and took advantage of his desperation to sleep with her mother — has died, mysteriously though. However, the fact that her mother is sick — and ultimately dies — is a bit heavy for the reader, who may all the same find solace in that Josh, Richard and Diana are with her for the funeral.

The rains that come at last are a great relief to the suffering villagers back in Mt Darwin.

“Just after they had parted ways, heavy rain drops started falling. There was a heavy downpour, which only eased into a drizzle the following afternoon. The drizzle persisted, for the next few days until a flooded Karuredzo River burst its banks.” (p244)

It is as though the rains become symbolic. They have come to cleanse the land of the dirt associated with the Madzibaba Josiahs of this world, the likes of Jonas Gobvu, Gary Okeke and several others whose wild goose chases in Harare yielded nothing.

Chidavaenzi is a journalist, anointed teacher of the Word and author with a passion for teaching and ministering healing to the sick. He was born on January 16, 1980 in Chitungwiza and is a born-again Christian.

His debut novel, The Haunted Trail, won the Nama award in 2007. He is married to Simba Lyn.

Comments (1)

well written. Please where can i get a copy of the book. I don't mind an e-copy. I stay in Nigeria.

kemi - 21 April 2017

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.