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Love and hurt: Jessica Levitt reviews Chwayita Ngamlana’s novel If I Stay Right Here

Published in the Sunday Times

If I Stay Right HereIf I Stay Right Here
Chwayita Ngamlana (Blackbird Books)

Chwayita Ngamlana’s debut novel is a spectacular one: a tale of a woman’s inability to let go of a relationship that she cherishes but which ultimately breaks her down. Shay, a journalism student out on a story, meets Sip, an unemployed varsity dropout who is in jail. Shay is attracted to the slight-figured convict and breaks the cardinal rule of journalism: don’t get personally involved with your subject.

Sip is released and soon they’re living together. Sip turns out to be an aggressive partner. Shay loses her friends and lives in fear as Sip gets progressively more jealous and physically violent. Yet Shay stays. Sip has got a hold on her and knows how to use her raw and alluring sexuality on Shay.

From the beginning the odds are against them in a story that asks: is love ever enough? The author has said she wrote in an experimental format to make the story more relatable. And boy did she succeed. The flow and structure of the novel glides smoothly. Ngamlana’s style is raw and honest. You’ll feel an extra hurt if you have ever been in a destructive relationship, or know anyone who is in one. If this is what Ngamlana is starting off with, then we’re signing up to her fan club, like, immediately.

Follow Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

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