We Kiss Them with Rain
by Futhi Ntshingila
Reviewed by John Francis Leonard
Fourteen-year-old Mvelo doesn’t have the easiest of lives. We Kiss Them with Rain is the story of her challenging journey navigating life in a shanty town of Durban, South Africa. Written with the young adult in mind, it is a story that can teach us all something about love, loss, and the perseverance needed to triumph over adversity. In it, we meet a colorful cast of characters, each with their own story to tell and a lesson to teach. It is a timeless story of African culture and its decimation by the AIDS crisis. It’s a crisis that has affected them differently than it has here with perhaps different demographics, but the pain is the same.
Mvelo and her single mother struggle, but they have a good life. Her mother is sent to live with an aunt when her parents learn of her pregnancy and it is through her that she meets the prosperous lawyer and ladies man Sipho, who changes her life in ways both good and bad. Eventually, Sipho acquires HIV and unknowingly transmits the virus to Zola, Mvelo‘s mother, soon after their break-up. Sipho passes away and Zola and her daughter, reduced to picking through trash to feed themselves, struggle to stay alive. This is the point in the novel that, having lost her mother, Zola becomes our central character. She faces many a challenge and, just when she’s given up all hope, she finds a new source of support.
In this novel, author Futhi Ntshingila weaves a beautiful narrative full of three-dimensional characters. She brings them, as well as the South African culture and landscape, to life vividly and entertains us as well as informs. It is a much-needed look at the AIDS crisis and a continent and country that has been hit so hard. In doing so, however, it still provides us with much hope for the future.
John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for fifteen years and he is currently at work on his first novel, Fools Rush In. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.