My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We Need New Names starts all witty and never lets up right up to the end. The writing style reads like a broken child, all jumbled and disjointed at first glance as is expected of a mindset of a little girl(Darling.) I would have to say, this is the first ever account albeit fictional of the situation in Zimbabwe told in blunt detail without fear or favour. The genius of the plot is the characterisation in the usage of pre-teen/teenage children through which we experience the stark post-colonial situation in Zimbabwe and the suffering/hopelessness/desperation/indignity at the hands of fellow blacks which is no different from the land grabbing at the hands of the Boers if not worse.
Darlings arrival in U.S.A ushers in new troubles such as nostalgia, culture shock and identity loss. She neither feels American nor identifies with Zimbabweans any more and thus lives in limbo, unable to fully integrate into American life, nor return to Zimbabwe for fear that she will be trapped in the cycle of suffering she fought hard to escape.
This coming of age novel tackles serious issues with witticism and humour, flavoured with a depth in expression that only your local language can avail you. We Need New Names exposes the tokoloshes messing up Africa with their kaka but do it with such style we can’t help but get drawn to issues at hand. Brilliant work!