House of Stone: Book summary and reviews of House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

House of Stone

by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma X
House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2019
    400 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Pulsing with wit, seduction, and dark humor, House of Stone is a masterful debut that explores the creative, and often destructive, act of history-making.

In the chronic turmoil of modern Zimbabwe, Abednego and Agnes Mlambo's teenage son, Bukhosi, has gone missing, and the Mlambos fear the worst. Their enigmatic lodger, Zamani, seems to be their last, best hope for finding him. Since Bukhosi's disappearance, Zamani has been preternaturally helpful: hanging missing posters in downtown Bulawayo, handing out fliers to passersby, and joining in family prayer vigils with the flamboyant Reverend Pastor from Agnes's Blessed Anointings church. It's almost like Zamani is part of the family…

But almost isn't nearly enough for Zamani. He ingratiates himself with Agnes and feeds alcoholic Abednego's addiction, desperate to extract their life stories and steep himself in borrowed family history, as keenly aware as any colonialist or power-mad despot that the one who controls the narrative inherits the future. As Abednego wrestles with the ghosts of his past and Agnes seeks solace in a deep-rooted love, their histories converge and each must confront the past to find their place in a new Zimbabwe.

Pulsing with wit, seduction, and dark humor, House of Stone is a sweeping epic that spans the fall of Rhodesia through Zimbabwe's turbulent beginnings, exploring the persistence of the oppressed in a young nation seeking an identity, but built on forgetting.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A revealing chronicle of revolutionary and postcolonial Zimbabwe and a finely engraved portrait of obsession, told in fluid, absorbing language." - Library Journal

"Zamani's opaque motivations distance the reader from the narrative, and sometimes the plot struggles under the weight of its hefty ambitions. But Tshuma ultimately delivers nuance and eloquent character studies, proving that an ugly history leaves no soul unscarred in its wake." - Booklist

"Though the tangents are sometimes overlong, Tshuma's novel bounces through time and bursts with an epic's worth of narratives. This is a clever, entertaining novel." - Publishers Weekly

"A multilayered, twisting, and surprising whirlwind of a novel that is as impressive as it is heartbreaking." - Kirkus

"With luminous language, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma explores the treacherous terrain of colonization and decolonization, remembering and forgetting, and love and betrayal. The result is a gripping account of revolution and its aftermath, both for a country and for one man." - Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer

"Novuyo Rosa Tshuma has written a towering and multilayered gem. House of Stone is one of the greatest-ever novels about Zimbabwe. What a timely, resonant gift." - NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names

"House of Stone is a novel of such maturity, such linguistic agility and scope that you'll scarcely believe it's a debut. Tshuma has set her formidable talents to no less a subject than the emergence of Zimbabwe from the darkness and tumult of colonialism. It's fierce and energetic right to the end, and whip smart to boot." - Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

"To call [House of Stone] clever or ambitious is to do it a disservice - it is both, but also more than that…Tshuma is incapable of writing a boring sentence…By the end, she has managed to not only sum up Zimbabwean history, but also all of African colonial history: from devastating colonialism to the bitter wars of independence to the euphoria of self-rule and the disillusionment of the present. It is an extraordinary achievement for a first novel." - Helon Habila, The Guardian

"Tshuma's writing is smart, original, feisty, brutal and gorgeous. She hits the perfect note on every single page in this gripping novel about history, belonging and power. This is the work of an incredible, incredible talent." - Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street

"Novuyo Tshuma is pure fire." - Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

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Reader Reviews

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Tawana J. (Brownsville, VT)

A page turner
From the moment I cracked the book open I couldn't put it down, there were some grammar mistakes but it didn't ruin the story. It is a story I would recommend to friends.

Beverly J. (Hoover, AL)

Powerful, exquisitely affecting, blisteringly honest
House of Stone is an impressive debut that examines the integration and recreation of personal and national identities through the lens of one "family" from the dissolution of Rhodesia, the birth of Zimbabwe, and what being a nation entails.

It is through the lens of the hopeful wily protagonist Zamani and his obsessive need to immerse himself into the family history of his landlords in order to re-create his "his-story" that makes this storyline so poignant.
While the violence is brutal it is well-balanced by the lively luminous prose as Tshuma deftly weaves the historical and personal into a seamless chronicle and provides a testament to the "culture of enforced amnesia."

At the end, I was so appreciative of how cleverly this story not only engaged me into the lives of these compelling characters, provided a thought-provoking history lessons but left me with an extraordinary reading experience of a place and time that is more universal than not.

Ann B. (Kernville, CA)

A layered novel in which history commands center stage
This sprawling novel set in Zimbabwe during Robert Mugabe's brutal government marks the impressive debut of Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. The book will appeal to readers seeking a layered, twist-filled #ownvoices story of oppressed and haunted people seeking to transcend the past.

Sharon P. (San Diego, CA)

Mixed feelings BUT very good book
I love this style of historical fiction. It's so important to learn about another country's history from an authentic voice like Ms. Tshuma. I know some readers might be bothered or confused by all the native words and slang, however, I felt it was integral to story. I chose not to research the exact meanings of the words, but instead relished the context in which they were used.

I loved the slow unfurling of the mystery and the stories of each character, but the flashback narrative was a bit confusing. My biggest problem is that I could not muster any sympathy for Zamani, the main narrator. I felt his desperation and manipulation, however, not his heart.

Thankfully, Mama Agnes and Abednego captured my heart, with their flawed pasts and their deep love of their missing son. Through their stories and pain, we the readers can learn about the turmoil, violence, and struggle for a free Zimbabwe.

Mary S. (Bow, NH)

The most wonderful anti-hero
Meet Zamani a conniving, passive-agressive narrator. Through his story, and his attempts to ingratiate himself in the lives of a family, the reader also sees the bloody and violent birth of Zimbabwe as it breaks free of colonial Rhodesia. At times humorous, at times hard to read because of the pain on the page, the plot moves along briskly and continuously engages the reader. A well-written book that would be excellent for book clubs as there is much to discuss!

Suzette P. (Chicago, IL)

A Masterful Tale of Zimbabwe History
The word Zimbabwe is thought to be Shona for House of Stone and this novel is a recounting of the cataclysmic events that formed the nation under Robert Mugabe as told through the personal tragedies of Abednego, his wife Mama Agnes, and their lodger Zamani, who narrates the story. Zamani is a cipher - he wants to be a member of the family and will go to frightening lengths to ingratiate himself, leaving the reader to wonder at his end game. I loved this book; it's wonderfully descriptive and, as Zamani's actions become increasingly disturbing, breathtakingly gripping.While often humorously told, the story is not for the faint of heart - it includes rapes, murders, ethnic cleansing, and wife beating, among other things.But the author's word play is impressive and her creation of Zamani, a great deceiver who is determined to succeed in his goals, is a great literary achievement. Highly recommended.

...14 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma grew up in Zimbabwe and lives in Houston, Texas. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Displaced, edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Her short story collection, Shadows, won the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize and was longlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and serves on the editorial advisory board and is a fiction editor at the Bare Life Review, a journal of refugee and immigrant literature based San Francisco.

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