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Drinking From Graveyard Wells by Yvette Lisa Ndlovu - book review


"Drinking from Graveyard Wells" book on a bookshelf


Drinking from Graveyard Wells is a short story collection written by Zimbabwean author and Sarungano (storyteller), Yvette Lisa Ndlovu. Shelf Interest book club read this book in January and it is safe to say that we were blown away! With a very Afro-Surreal feel to it, themes of spirituality, ancestorial veneration, and magic were immediately apparent! Yvette used these vices to create a mirror world highlighting the patriarchy, injustice and effects of colonialism that have been experienced throughout history. Yvette conveys a frustration and even ridicule of the corruption faced in today's world with distorted stories and bizarre imagery that linger heavily on the mind long after they have been read.


A lot of our book clubbers really enjoyed the unapologetic use of Shona within the text. Some of us googled the exact translations, while others used context clues to understand the effect of what was being said - it is refreshing when authors integrate African languages into texts without justification, over-explanation or translation. It normalises it.



Screenshot of book club members in online discussion with backgrounds displaying the book "Drinking From Graveyard Wells". Author Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is also in attendance as she was being interviewed.


We interviewed Yvette Lisa Ndlovu online and found her to be very soft-spoken and gentle-mannered despite the fiery aura of her book! It is always interesting to see the inner messages authors convey in juxtaposition with their actual demeanour. We were collectively shocked to find out that while writing a novel, when Yvette would experience writer's block, she would doodle some creative stories down in order to refresh her mind, a friend looked at these stories and enjoyed them then advised her to publish them, and that began the road to the publishing of Drinking From Graveyard Wells! Learning that this awesome book is a compilation of writer's-block-doodles, never intended to be seen by the world, is such a testament to Yvette's natural talent and makes me desperate to read her novel(s) yet to be released!


When approaching the supernatural, Yvette uses African (Zimbabwean) spirituality and shows deities and magical entities as having a very skewed and questionable sense of morality, just like humans! She highlights systemic inequalities, even amongst the gods and heavens, showing a parallel to how human beings are corrupt and going higher up in these systems, doesn't change much.



Joyce and Shomi - founders of Shelf Interest book club, holding a copy of Drinking from Graveyard Wells


Themes of immigration, poverty and capitalism are constant throughout the book with the backdrop of sacrifice, greed and consequences. There is also little reward for sacrifice in this world, and little-to-no-reward for suffering. You can sacrifice your homeland and culture to immigrate for a better life, yet you can still lose the priceless things you value the most; or you can sacrifice your time and pay "black tax", and still end up stressed-to-death. The consequences are endless in Drinking From Graveyard Wells, you may even be paying for the consequences of the terrible actions of those higher-up from you. There is no rest under capitalism, especially not for women, not even in the afterlife.


This was a really fun book to read and review, it is no wonder our book clubbers rated it sooo highly! This book is a great read for all, especially those that like expanding their minds with obscure imagery, those interested in African spiritual practices, those who want to watch everything burn, and those who are passionate about women's liberation!


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A graphic highlighting how Shelf Interest Book Club Members rated the book "Drinking from Graveyard Wells". The rates were: Overall - 4.8/5 stars. Readability - 4.8/5 stars. Storyline - 4.6/5 stars. Page-turner-icity - 4.8/5 stars. Recommendation - 4.8/5 stars.
Shelf Interest book club community rating!

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