Book Review: Hope is Our Only Wing

Title: Hope is Our Only Wing

Author: Rutendo Tavengerwei

Genres:  Contemporary

Pages: 216

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Copy: Copy from publisher

Availability: Available now

Summary: For fifteen-year-old Shamiso, hope is nothing but a leap into darkness. Grief-stricken and confused after her father’s mysterious death in a car crash, Shamiso moves with her mother from England to Zimbabwe in order to pick up the pieces—returning to an extended family and a world she hardly remembers. For Tanyaradzwa, a classmate whose life has been turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis, hope is the only reason to keep fighting.

As an unexpected friendship blossoms between them and the two girls navigate the increasingly uncertain political situation in Zimbabwe, Tanyaradzwa helps Shamiso confront her fear of loss. In opening herself to someone with a potentially fatal illness, Shamiso knows that she might be opening herself to more pain. Yet Tanyaradzwa is the only one who gives her the strength to ask the burning question: What really happened to her father?

Review: I was really looking forward to this novel as it focused on the growing friendship between Shamiso and Tanyaradzwa and how their friendship changes both of their lives. Sadly, the friendship of the young girls is what I actually found lacking. The two slowly interact but the development of their friendship mainly happens off-screen. There were many instances in the book where the two girls begin to open up to each other and then the chapter would end. Unfortunately, passages where we could have really experienced Shamiso and Tanyaradzwa bonding were often cut short in order to move the story forward. And because of that, when Tanyaradzwa’s cancer becomes serious and she is hospitalized, the conflict Shamiso faces about visiting her friend and dealing with her grief rings hollow because their bond was not fully established.

I did connect with Shamiso as the story is mostly told in her voice (there are vignettes all throughout) and I feel like the author did an excellent job of dealing with grief and how that changes a person and their relationship to family and others. In addition to losing her father, Shamiso is experiencing her world being upturned as she left her home and is now attending a boarding school in Chinhoyi, a suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. Talk about a major life change. She has to adjust to a completely different way of life and have to make new friends. In addition, Zimbabwe is experiencing political turmoil and she is starting the school when government systems are starting to break down. She is clearly overwhelmed with the adjustment and dealing with her grief as she was close to her father. It’s clear that because of this Shamiso is a shell of her former self. Her budding friendship with Tanyaradzwa does help her as she discovers the identity of Shamiso’s father. I feel like Tanyaradzwa is a wonderful balance for Shamiso as she is dealing with cancer, but still trying to maintain her positivity. It’s clear that that relationship does influence Shamiso and by the end she begins to come out of her shell.

Overall there is a lot that I enjoyed about the book, like the vignettes that gave the different perspectives of people Shamiso interacts with and painted a fuller picture of Zimbabwe in 2008. I enjoyed all the characters as they were fully developed, including the antagonist that we did feel for, which made for an engaging story. I just with the friendship between Shamiso and Tanyaradzwa was truly center stage and their dynamic was the strongest throughout the entire novel.