Book: Black Widow Society
Author: Angela Makholwa
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Year of Publication: 2013
Number of pages: 278
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The last book I read by South African writer Angela Makholwa was The Thirtieth Candle and I nearly missed out on a major world carnival as I sat on a beach and read it. The writer is really good. Her latest book is Black Widow Society and was published by 2013 by Pan Macmillan.
The book talks about a society that was formed by three women Edna Whithead, Nkosazana Khumalo and the Tallulah Ntuli. In Kenya, we are used to the groups we called chamas which are aimed at pooling their finances to do noble things like support businesses and finance family affairs. This group which calls itself the Black Widow Society is a bit less noble in its aims; the society kills the husbands of members. You heard that right; to be a member of the BWS means that your horrible abusive husband will lose their life and you will pay for this pleasure. The killings for the group are done by an assassin, an ex-convict called Mzwakhe Khuzwayo. The society only meets once a year where members are given an account of their activities and they are not to meet socially after that. The group grows organically over the years so nothing could possibly go wrong right? Wrong!
Everything goes wrong as the story unfolds.
The three original members have their own issues. Tallulah has a penchant for nubile young men and one of these boys emerges as a leak in the society that she has to deal with decisively. Edna is boring. Nkosazana is a gay attorney who decides that she wants one final payout for many years of service to the BWS. So she gets the services of Mzwakhe to kill one of their clients spouses on the side for a fee. This client, it turns out, is a good friend of his girlfriend Marie. His white girlfriend who he intends to ask for her hand in marriage even though they still frown upon that stuff in SA 20 years after freedom. The same girlfriend he has been keeping away from her the secret that he is a paid contract killer. This new job jolts him.
The book ends in a climax that isn’t very pretty.
One thing I like about the prose in this book is just how functional it is. None of your fancy “The sky which was in Nairobi Blue colour looked like it wanted to bring down showers of God’s endless blessings after a long and tortuous day” when “The sky was blue but it could rain eventually” could work just as well. I really like this kind of prose as it doesn’t disrupt the narrative without purpose.
The characters in this book are on point. Seriously. These are people who aren’t just parts of a whole but fully formed characters in a full story which makes the way in which it turns out perfect and not just random. The killings of some of the characters such as the philandering China Gumede is thought out and to the point but the reader doesn’t have to feel the work done.
My favourite character was Max Cameron who is an old dude who was supposed to be killed by the BWS but somehow, even without his knowledge, charms himself out of death.
I loved this book. Lucky for me there was no major world carnival to miss.