Hear Me Alone (Review)

Book cover for "Hear Me Alone" by Thanda Mgqolozana.Title: Hear Me Alone

Author: Thando Mgqolozano

Publication Year: 2011

Pages: 140

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Source: Purchased from a bookstore

From the cover:

When Epher returns to Nazareth, he meets his childhood sweetheart, Bellewa Miriam, whose marriage to the woodwork merchant, old man Joseph, has been arranged. Bellewa Miriam shares with Epher that an angel has informed her that she would conceive that very night. Many years later, Epher recounts the events of that meeting in a letter to his patron and friend Theophilus, recounting the consequences suffered as a result of the encounter, which, Epher hopes, will be included in the bible. A reimagining of the Nativity Story, this novel offers an imaginative alternative to the account of the conception and birth of Jesus Christ.

I picked up this book when I was in South Africa over the winter break. It was displayed prominently on the shelf, though I didn’t realize that it had basically just been published. Then it sat on my shelf for a while, and I didn’t manage to read it until my trip to Egypt a few months later.

As far as a re-imagining goes, this version is most creative in its style of narration. The main character, Epher, describes what is going on in a style of English that is definitely not the usual. It’s very stylized. Plus, there are all kinds of words and phrases that the author has created, and which the reader just has to figure out on their own. (For example, “hear me alones” are ultimately revealed to be what is probably just thoughts, and are seen as being from The Virgin, aka God. But it’s not really clear whether these are normal thoughts or visions or what.) And the way that Epher talks about the religions that he and the other people follow is just as unclear.

Because of this, I spent a great deal of time while reading Hear Me Alone feeling lost and confused. I eventually figured out most of what was going on, but it took a lot of going back and forth and an awful lot of critical thinking just to figure out basic comprehension of the plot details. So if you’re not in the mood for a deep read, this isn’t the book for you.

Even though I didn’t love the rest of the book, the ending had a twist that made me smile. Perhaps, if you give this book a try, it’ll amuse you as well.


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