Book review: What we lose

The cover of this book is stunning and I bought it mostly as it covers a south-african story 😀 You people know by now my love for Johannesburg <3


From an author of rare, haunting power, a stunning novel about a young African-American woman coming of age—a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, family, and country

Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.

My opinion:

This is the kind of book that stays with you. Its a powerful book about grieve, motherhood, life experience and race.

The author’s approach to pain and the loss of a mother figure is profound, full of emotions and flows so well throughout the book. It s a heavy book that depicts so well these feelings after the loss of a parent and how to overcome this loss of identity and part of our soul .

You may be lost because of the many flashbacks and life episodes that the author throws in the story but its helpful to understand the current and past behavior and to celebrate the life before the loss. It’s a different kind of novel and appeals more to a memoir. I personally liked how she referred to blog articles, music, random thoughts, believes and associations that gave us a deeper look into Thandi’s mindset. This approach allowed a wider exploration of issues around race, identity, politics and belonging.

Anyone who lost a parent will deeply resonate with this novel and relate to it. Seeing the vibrant cover you’d think it will be a light approach to the subject, but it is a beautiful surprise. The focus on feelings is well mastered and the author is spot-on in the descriptions and approach to certain subjects.

AUTHORS IN CONVERSATION | What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons - MoAD ...

I also liked her approach to motherhood, especially as it is an expected step in a woman’s life. Zinzi Clemmons deeply reflected on the subject and it was interesting to follow Thandi’s growth in the USA and in South-africa as she is from a wealthy colored family. It is a different view of the south-african society from the one we are used to nowadays in various books which provides an interesting point of view.

« What we lose » is the kind of powerful book that stays with you and that you’ll read again at different stages of life as it covered so well personal struggles and the grieving process. I personally know that I will re-read it again but at different stages of my life as I am sure i’ll have different feelings toward it.