By: Fiona Sussman
Publication Date: October 2015
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 9, 2015
Apartheid is more than a word. It is a tragedy that leeches into the essence and potential of a being and usurps hope. Fiona Sussman does more than touch upon this premise in her bittersweet debut novel, Another Woman’s Daughter.
Miriam Mphephu is Celia’s bright and sunny child. Celia knows her place in the world and is grateful to be the black servant of a white family in 1960s Johannesburg, South Africa. The rest of her family is far away, but she is comforted to have at least one of her offspring with her. Michael and Rita Steiner are good white people. They treat Miriam as though she were their beloved child. Sadly, after a third miscarriage, Rita is all-too aware Miriam may be the only connection she will ever have to ‘mothering’ a child of her own...
There is unrest in Johannesburg and constant conflict between white and black is palpable. When the Steiner’s return from hospital without their expectant bundle of joy, little did Mariam know her life was about to drastically change. A few months later along with rising conflict, Celia has a decision to make. How could she know the plan her ‘masters’ had concocted would take her precious Miriam away perhaps forever? As devastating as it would be to let her baby girl go, she believed a life for Miriam far away from the hate and discrimination was what was best. And so it was decided. The Steiner’s would leave Africa. They would take Celia’s only daughter with them to their homeland of England. There Miriam had the hope and promise of a proper upbringing—a life full of opportunities beyond anything Celia could provide. What they failed to tell Celia before departing was she had given her daughter up to the Steiner’s for adoption...and over the coming years, Miriam would realize she had become Another Woman’s Daughter...
Fiona Sussman has an impressive resume. She may have the credentials of a doctor, but her soul of a writer is portrayed through the penning of her debut novel: Another Woman’s Daughter. There is a raw and innocent voice that resounds across the pages of this first novel. It beckons the reader to listen carefully and feel the sadness and tragedies born out of Apartheid. There is a melancholic allure to the beautiful prose Ms. Sussman assembles as she sets the stage for a believable exchange of dialogue time and again in this read. Sussman establishes an instant connection with her audience—specifically for anyone who has lost something so precious and has made it his/her life’s mission to get it back. I applaud Ms. Sussman for not painting a premise of contempt given the topic. Rather, she delivers a reality of a situation and happenstance that is a way of life even in modern times. I have never been to Africa, yet the glory and splendor of the scenery Ms. Sussman manages to capture through descriptive passages takes the reader right into the moment. Bravo Ms. Sussman. It is abundantly clear you have found your calling in life and I look forward to the privilege of reading your next novel.
Quill says: Another Woman’s Daughter is a story that will pull at the reader’s heartstrings in one moment as much as it will have you cheering for the victor in the next.