Disturbing but a true depiction

Book: Holy Hill

Book: Holy Hill

Author: Angelina N Sithebe

Publisher: Umuzi

Reviwer: Edward Tsumele

The cover of Holy Hill depicts an angel-like figure wielding a sword. The figure is clad in an orange robe over a white gown.

Below, on the right and under the robe of the figure, is the face of a person in agony. On the right is a nun standing and praying. Then, right across this picture, the title Holy Hill in orange letters screams out at you.

And below all this is the explanation: "A gut-wrenching story of salvation and damnation."

Whichever way you look at the cover, it is fearsome. It illustrates graphically the journey awaiting the reader in this beautifully written novel.

Holy Hill, by Angelina N Sithebe, is a painful experience that has been well written.

The story is told in the third person perspective through a spirit that connects with human beings.

The spirit interacts with Christina Nana Mlozi, a Xhosa girl who appears to be cursed from birth, and Claude Dema, an illegal immigrant from the Central African Republic.

The story revolves around Nana and Claude. Nana is a problem child who has visions of little men urging her to be mischievous. The disturbed Nana is more comfortable in the spiritual, rather than the real world.

Claude, a former child soldier, male prostitute, part-time drug dealer and addict is a born-again Christian.

Holy Hill is about moral decay, the scourge of drugs, xenophobia and stereotyping in Mzansi.

Because of Nana's erratic behaviour at home in Durban, where her mother is a nurse at a local clinic and her father a school principal, she is sent to a Roman Catholic convent. Her parents hope and believe that the nuns will reform their daughter.

But when Nana leaves the convent nine years later she is broken spiritually, mentally and physically. It is under these sad circumstances that she meets Claude at the presentation of the Zulu Heritage Awards in Durban, where her boss sends her to learn social skills.

She cannot hold on to a job or to a man. She needs spiritual balance and the only person she thinks can provide it is Claude.

But Claude, too, is in search of a new identity and a good future, and he believes that only Nana can give them to him. They fall in love and what happens between the two is something that you would not wish on your worst enemy.

I will stop here because what happens at the end of Holy Hill defies logic and literary convention of how novels should not end.

Holy Hill raises pertinent questions about contemporary South Africa and the evilness of drugs, racism, xenophobia, moral depravation and decay.