Ms. Bulawayo gives us a sense of Darling’s new life in staccato takes that show us both her immersion in and her alienation from American culture. We come to understand how stranded she often feels, uprooted from all the traditions and beliefs she grew up with, and at the same time detached from the hectic life of easy gratification in America.
The kids' names give you a clue of how wanted they are at home. There's a Bastard and Godknows. One girl is pregnant at 11. They wear cast-off T-shirts given to them by aid workers, advertising brands they can't afford and colleges they'll never attend. Poignantly, they know their dreams of escape are lined with tin … Chapter by chapter, Bulawayo ticks off the issues that a state-of-the-nation novel by an African should cover — the hypocrisies of the church, elections, the AIDS epidemic, political violence — and beats some subtlety back into them with the hard true sound of Darling's voice … With fury and tenderness, she has made a linguistic bridge between here and there, a journey her heroine charts in this phenomenal tale with the gallows humor of a girl who knows how far down it is when things fall apart.
There is a palpable anxiety to cover every ‘African’ topic; almost as if the writer had a checklist made from the morning's news on Africa … What stops the book collapsing under its own thematic weight is a certain linguistic verve, and the sense that this is a really talented and ambitious author who might at any moment surprise the reader by a plot twist, some technical bravura, or a thematic transcendence that will take the story beyond its gratuitously dark concerns to another, more meaningful level … Bulawayo's keen powers of observation and social commentary, and her refreshing sense of humour, come through best in moments when she seems to have forgotten her checklist and goes unscripted.