Set in South Africa, Such a Lonely, Lovely Road is about Kabelo, a doctor who struggles with the expectations of his parents and community. Kabelo grew up in a township, where he learnt early on that it is shameful to be gay or to be considered gay. So he tries to hide his sexuality, to avoid the associated stigma, and preserve his image as the perfect son. But then, he finds love and everything seems fine for a moment, until it isn’t. Check out the full goodreads summary here.
I really like this novel. It covers a lot of important issues like gender and sexual identity, racial relations in South Africa, the AIDS crisis, and many more. I like that the author was able to make all these statements without making it seem like they were stuffed down the reader’s throat. The commentary just appeared in the storyline organically, and flowed with the narrative.
Beyond that, Such a Lonely, Lovely Road provides a unique racialized perspective on the African gay story. Gay marriage is legal in South Africa, unlike many African countries, and it was interesting not only to see a same sex African couple in a context where their relationship is legitimized by the government, but to see how Kabelo’s identity as a black man from the townships affects the way he expresses his sexuality.
The plot is enjoyable, and the author conveys the emotions in the novel beautifully. I feel like I experienced all the characters’ emotions with them. From the bashfulness of a new crush, to giddy love, then shame, dread, grief, and everything in between. I empathised with Kabelo on the pressure he felt to live up to his parents expectations (and not disappoint them) and I desperately wished that the situation was easier for him. I also enjoyed Sediba’s character. He is tender, brave, loving and sometimes vulnerable. He defies society’s expectations of how a man should be, and does so with style. He is also the ‘woke’ character in the novel, and just a good guy in general. That’s another thing I like about this novel, that the gay characters are not portrayed as evil or abnormal.
I didn’t have any major problems with this book. There were some minor editing issues, which were annoying, but didn’t detract from the storyline. And towards the ending, some plot lines seemed a little too convenient. However, I’ve rationalized that if an unbelievably handy solution is necessary to create the happy ending we all deserve in this gay African story, then I’m not mad at it.
I rate this novel 4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend it to anyone who loves romance and happy endings. Or anyone looking for insight into the gay South African experience (though the author is not a gay man).
Thank you for reading! Let me know if you’ve read this novel or something similar. Also, what do you think about authors writing experiences that aren’t theirs? i.e. Non-African writers telling African stories, men writing about women, straight people telling queer stories, etc.