Children Who Sleep by the River, The
5 1/4" x 8" • 256 pages
Four generations of African women: baby Tendai lies waiting to be born in her mother Beauty's womb; Beauty, pregnant for the first time and fearful of witches' spells, returns from the tobacco fields to her native village and to her mother Miriam, midwife and hotheaded nganga; she in turn listens for the spirit voice of her dead aunt Eustina to tell her how best to bring Beauty's baby into the world, for there is a conflict in her mind between the old, traditional ways and the teachings of Sister Tekedi at the clinic.
Miriam, once revered, is now shunned by the villagers, after one of her treatments failed: a young nephew has died and has been laid to rest with the other children who sleep by the river, where the water washes away the evil that killed them. For here, the miracle of birth is too soon overshadowed by death-by hunger, disease, witchcraft, the evil eye. Beauty's cousin Esther turns to crime to keep her little ones alive, while her barren sister Cornelia yearns desperately for a baby she can never have.
Assured and breathtaking in its imagery, this dramatically beautiful and haunting novel, which unfolds in the heart of rural Zimbabwe, is at once a powerful work of the imagination and a chronicle of real events-in a world where the mundane is at every point touched by magic.
Debbie Taylor has made three documentary films about women in Africa. She is co-editor of New Internationalist magazine and author of Women: A World Report and A Tale of Two Villages.
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