Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Day by Tiah Beautement #review

Title: This Day
Author: Tiah Beautement
Publisher: Modjaji Books, 2014
Reviewer: Nerine Dorman

Possibly the worst has happened to Ella. Not only has she lost her small son Kai under tragic circumstances, but she has also lost her husband. Bart might be there physically, but his spirit is locked away in a profound depression. Though the couple wants for nothing when it comes to their material needs, they no longer have much in the way of a relationship. Ella sits by helpless as Bart seems to drift further and further away, and the therapist isn’t helping.

At the heart of the matter, Ella is lonely, and at her wits’ end. In her self-imposed exile caring for Bart and his depression, she has become incapable of connecting meaningfully with other people. On top of that, she is unable to process her own grief and look after her own needs – simply going through the motions though on the outside she seems to be coping better than her husband.

Some of Ella’s behaviour might, to an outside observer, even seem bizarre – for instance her habit of digging in portions of her son’s cremated remains with the vegetables that she grows. In her own way, Ella is trying to bring Kai back to life.

She might be lonely, but Ella is not completely alone. Her friends care, and in their own ways try to get Ella to reach beyond herself and her diminishing orbit around Bart. His depression is an almost palpable entity that has taken on a life of its own, and has displaced their relationship. Bart uses Ella as a shield between himself and the real world, and Ella enables him by constantly trying to anticipate his needs.

No one talks about Bart’s depression, but they’re all aware of it.

Threaded throughout the novel is the theme of water – at first benign and life-giving, but then the separator, that takes her son away from her. The ocean is forbidding and a barrier that prevents Ella from confronting herself. It is something vast that she must face, and immerse herself before she can attain acceptance.

Ella must let slip some of her need to control before she can make peace with the fact that there are aspects of her life that remain forever altered – her son’s death and her husband’s psychological state. It’s how she chooses to engage with the ebb and flow of the tides that matters.

This Day is a bittersweet moment in time that Tiah Beautement has captured beautifully. Although the story is slow-moving, it is beautifully rendered and, like water, is reflective and steeped in emotion.

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