Wednesday, May 8, 2019

What We Lose: A Novel by Zinzi Clemmons

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Pages: 213 pages
Published: July 2017 

At its core, What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons is a story about grief, depression, and healing. In this short fictional novel, Clemmons presents a story centered around Thandi, born of a South African mother and black American father, who loses her mom to cancer. The plot is Thandi working her way through this loss. She also explores seemingly unrelated themes of femininity, race, sexuality, and identity.

Clemmons has received rave reviews on her debut novel. I'm not as impressed. While there were some touching passages that resonated with me, I found the book to be very disjointed and lacking fluidity. Maybe she was trying to illustrate the emotional elements of grief through her writing. I found it very cumbersome. At times I could not tell if she was writing fiction or non-fiction. She references real life events and scientific studies like the book is a work of non-fiction, but then she has Thandi's story, which is somewhat fictional, sitting on top of the book. I say "somewhat" because she, the author, has admitted to borrowing experiences from her relationship with her own mother and using them in the novel. I know authors do this - you write what you know. I truly believe this gives the stories depth. However, in my humble opinion, Clemmons did not execute this well. I found myself re-reading passages to understand if the events she was writing about were regarding a real life person, like Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama or if she was referring to the fictional character, Thandi.

I liken the tone and pace of this book to Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot. There seems to be a trend of authors writing their trauma through their books. I suppose this is a tool to heal. I just don't know if it's effective from a creative standpoint.

Recommendation This was an interesting read that I finished in about two hours. Obviously, it has resonated with many people. It just wasn't my cup of tea. The one thing I did take from it was: Love your mom while she's still here. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! :-)

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


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