Book of the Month: Idle Hands
Author: Retshepile Nonyani
Publisher: The Jeli Stories
Page Numbers: 55
‘Idle Hands’ is a fantasy-esque contemporary piece, written by Retshepile Nonyani, which depicts the consequences of fear and the chance of salvation for the protagonist, Mariju Ana Sithole – a clever double entendre for “Marijuana”, one of the many reasons for his pitiful predicament.
Before opening the book, I already had a presumption about the storyline based on the title. I knew “idle” to be something without any purpose. My assumption was almost correct, as this acknowledgement is what the protagonist considers himself, due to his fear – a theme that resonates throughout the story. Still, I am unable to understand the meaning of the character positioned on the television, and this re-occurring pattern, on the title page. Perhaps it illustrates Mariju’s control over his own life as if it was a programme – should he choose to change his ways or stay on the same channel?
Although the story is set in South Africa, much of the plot is situated in a fantasy land named Crossroads, where the rules are “flexible”. Without revealing too much information, I gathered that the geography of the location wasn’t at all relevant, although Mariju reckons it to be Purgatory – the Catholic belief of the state dead souls remain between Heaven and Hell, therefore confirming his alarming, but incorrect, assumption that he is already dead. I was more intrigued at how Nonyani placed more importance on how the settings; particularly Crossroads; impacted the emotions and sanity of the protagonist, whether that was the feeling of emptiness on the train or the euphoria at the night club.
One aspect of the plot that struck me was the characterization of secondary characters who all had an impact in Mariju’s life. During his path to salvation, he encounters an eager drug dealer and a compassionate stranger on the train. Nonyani personifies the protagonist’s addiction through the alluring “tall woman in the red dress”, who urges him to be consumed by her pleasures. Mariju is led through Crossroads by his “doppelgänger”, David, who demonstrates the persona and confidence Mariju desires, but does not express due to his anxiety.
Overall, the story was a fascinating read! I was captivated by Nonyani’s imaginative imagery used to illustrate the concept of fear, its consequences, and the opportunity to redeem oneself from their ‘sins’. A moral I extracted from reading was that if one allows fear to consume your wellbeing, such fear will become an entity for the rest of your life, therefore preventing you from achieving the potentials you are destined for. Nonetheless, there are still some questions I have concerning the actual significance of certain characters, and the resolution; particularly the ending – which I will not reveal!
I sowed fear in all aspects of my life and I have reaped the emptiness that fear produces in all of ones endeavours.
If you have any recommendations for us to read, then let us know! Comment below, and we’ll check it out!