Sometimes, I choose a book "just because" without knowing much about it. I think it allows me to enter into the story without any expectations. It definitely worked in the case of Kagiso Lesego Molope's novel, This Book Betrays My Brother. This author was new to me, I didn't know the book was YA, and I didn't know what the story was about. So there were surprises all around.
This book takes place in South Africa and is a coming of age story of the narrator, thirteen year old Naledi. She begins by telling the reader about her brother, Basi who was born into a family of women. The fact he was a boy meant that he was adored by his family and their community. Basi could do no wrong. Naledi herself doesn't mind the attention and love he gets because she admires her older brother too.
Naledi is interested in clothes and boys and curious about sex and mostly, she looks up to her brother and watches everything he does as he hangs out with friends. They have each other's back, stick up for one another and help each other get away with things their parents wouldn't allow.
This is a family story according to Naledi, and it is not an easy one. The title itself gives away that there is a secret; there is something we are going to learn about Naledi's brother.
The writing is beautiful. The characters are complex. The story is set up to draw the reader in, drawn into the family relationships, friendships and especially the sibling relationship of Naledi and Basi. Then, Naledi witnesses her brother commit a horrifying act. This changes everything. Naledi knows the truth and is bewildered between what she observed and who she thought her brother was.
Since the story is told by Naledi, I wish that we would have been able to enter into her thought process more. Her actions are the same as a victim and she further becomes a victim because of the wrath of her family and community. It is shown, but I wish we could have had an insight to her inner thoughts especially since she was younger and had to wrap her head around what she saw and then deal with her emotions.
The themes in the book are heavy: rape culture, blame, racism, sexism, violence and gender roles. When Naledi's parents and community defend Basi, their golden child who could do no wrong, there were so many times that I was angry at their words and treatment of Naledi. The story is executed incredibly well.
This is an excellent novel to be added to the #metoomovement literature. I look forward to reading more by Molope.
Trigger Warnings: rape culture, rape, sexism, and violence.
Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛