Yewande Omotoso, a Barbados born author who moved to South Africa in 1992, makes her U.S. fiction debut with this provocative, enlightening and at times outrageously funny novel about two old and very opinionated neighbors in Katterijn, a wealthy suburb of Cape Town.
Marion Agostino is a white native of Cape Town, a widow and the head of their enclave’s property owners. She once was the principal architect in her own firm, but gave up that work when she became the mother of four children, who now mostly ignore her. Hortensia James, a famous black textile designer whose husband is on his deathbed, has been her neighbor for the past 20 years. The relationship between these strong, creative women has been nothing but contentious. In chapters alternating between their voices, Omotoso slowly fills in their backstories, revealing their loves, hopes and disappointments to give insight into how they evolved into the women they are now.
Then an event occurs that forces Marion and Hortensia to come together—both living temporarily under the same roof. With an acutely perceptive eye, Omotoso paints a picture of the subtle changes in their interactions. As their snipes and barbs morph into attempts at understanding, their personal growth reminds the reader of what is still occurring, on a grander scale, in the country these memorable women call home.