'Hunadi: a Hlabirwa' by Pheladi Makgeru is the standout story. It is told from the point of view of a South African woman tending her garden on the outskirts of a village 'in semi-arid land where it hardly rains but when it does, disaster follows'. Calamity comes to her just before the story’s close, when we discover the basis of her claim that she is a gardener more familiar with loss than growth.
Other stories in the collection evoke more urbane domestic scenes from South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand and Croatia.
From the UK, Angela Pritchard’s “Billy”, represents a nurse’s recollection of an industrial accident and the vigil of a mother at the bedside of her dying son.
More on the subject of love than loss, Alison Giles’ 'A ball of wool' offers a tender reconstruction, from photographs, of the life of her industrious Slavic mother-in-law.
The book is sprinkled with quotes, some from ancient notables such as Lao Tzu, or more contemporary luminaries such as John Lennon, or anonymous sayings in the style of greeting cards: 'I can wipe away the tears from my eyes. But… I can’t wipe away the pain in my heart'.
The stories are all of ordinary life; many are entertaining, some enlighten, even inspire; others are plain ordinary. Some look back in sweetness and regret, while others step tremulously into a future of declining power that any of us ironically might one day feel lucky to experience.
The writers were subscribed via an international competition held by Exisle Publishing to collect life writing form people aged 65 and over.
The result is an anthology of variable quality but an accessible read for people of all ages.
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