A comprehensive review of 'A Life Steered' by Deswell Chitewe - founder of verenga.com and ZimBookshop.com both of which are
online bookshops specialising in books by Zimbabwean authors.
‘What I really struggled with after reading this book was who to send my coffee bill to! When reading this book I made several cups of coffee to sip on while enjoying this book but they all went cold because I was so engrossed in the topsy-turvy story of our heroine, Sandra. This book is a depiction of a sequence of real life events that occur in Sandra's life which range from broken family, friendship, relationships, death, inheritance, love, suicide, tradition, determination and so on. All these events are topped with sprinkles of light comedy.
Bertha's style of writing is simple yet sophisticated enough to take the reader on an adventurous journey in Sandra's shoes. On top of the themes already highlighted, there is no shortage of characters to help the author elucidate the account of Sandra. What makes the story realistic is that the character of Sandra is someone who one can easily identify with. She, Sandra, can be described as an average girl/woman going through realistic life experiences that many of us will have come across in our own lives. She is far from perfect and the quality that differentiates her from the norm is that she is determined to achieve her goals irrespective of the catalogue of events that steer here off course. Sandra is not super-human as we see her falling pregnant out of wedlock and the scene she gives up on life in the midst of her struggles, among others. However, she bounces back and continues to chase her goals.
The most touching moment from me was when Sandra goes to meet her mother after all the turmoil in her life. The book begins with the mother walking out on her children and alcoholic husband leaving Sandra and her 2 siblings to fend for themselves. Sandra feels abandoned by her mother after the parents split up and throughout her life our heroine struggles to understand the reason why her mother completely cut ties with her family. Sandra never stops searching for an answer and she gets the opportunity to ask her mother the difficult question at the end of the book. Speaking of mothers, I was quite surprised that the author chose to portray Sandra's step mother as an ally in her journey through life. One would have expected the step mother to add to Sandra's misery which makes the reader feel a bit guilty for expecting a step mother to be totally horrible!
This book is not all about sad and serious issues but there is an adequate serving of comic relief. You cannot help but chuckle at the author's portrayal of the bus trips through rural Zimbabwe and how the Bus Conductors treat innocent paying passengers. The father's antics after a drink are also something one can laugh off. If I was a fly on the wall in the lobola scene I would have laughed my wings off at the father's impatience and the “encounter” with the mother who acted like a money-hungry debt collector! The scene where teacher Sandra is summoned to the Headmaster's office to “identify” the love-letter-bearer-boys from her lover was just the funny, and uncomfortable, destruction the story needed.
In my view, the biggest triumph for Sandra was overcoming all the obstacles in her way to achieve her professional qualification as a Teacher, which is the profession that she is passionate about. It was not an easy battle but she managed to turn that spark, her husband's support, into a flame. This teaches us all that as long as we are focused on our goals we can overcome all the obstacles that life throws in front of us. Just like the cover of the book that shows a sunrise to support the theme “Never give up”; because with every passing night there will always be a brighter day.
All in all this is a great first book by the author and we look forward to more fine works.’