“All his life into grey sideburned middle age, Ombima had never really stolen from anyone. He had always worked tirelessly for what little he had. Of course there were those petty offenses, like pilfering fruit from a neighbor’s tree and things like that that everyone does as a boy and which is not seriously considered as theft. But stealing satisfy a burning need he had never done. He had always gone out of his way to keep on his cloak of honesty, even after he got married and the hardships of looking after a family pressed. Today Ombima was going to steal. Not money, not silver. He was going to steal food. Plain, life sustaining food, and it weighed him down with such shame he could hardly keep his head straight.”
How difficult is it to make the right choices and change one’s life?
That is the question Ombima asks himself constantly throughout the novel- a middle-aged married man with two children who should be contented about his modest but happy life, but whose life is rapidly changing the night he decides to steal food from his attractive boss and neighbour Madam Tabitha.
As the plot unfolds, the reader discovers that the honest and kind character changes as temptation, under all its forms, seduces him and shows him another side of life. However, when sickness and death touch his family, his priorities will be challenged.
Stanley Gazemba’s intense and highly visual novel takes the reader into a journey into the human mind and offers a perspective on how vulnerable our principles about life really are. The nocturnal scenes give a particular depth to the plot and make us question Ombima’s uprightness, and reveal a dark, oneiric vision both of the world and of the human spirit- a place and time where control over one’s passions and unknown weaknesses is loosened.
This nocturnal introspection is also illustrated by the web of relations between the main characters (Ombima, his wife Sayo, and their friends to show the character that nothing is ever certain and definitive when it comes to human interactions.
It is in this grave atmosphere that Gazemba’s powerful writing highlight the human attitudes before life’s unpredictability; before temptation and death, Ombima is the emblematic Man torn between good and evil, between love and lust, between duty and freedom.
Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba
978-0998642307 / The Mantle (June 6, 2017)
Review by Ioana Danaila
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature in an international highschool in France.