Book review: The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam (Lauren Liebenberg)

Chaos right next door, in Zimbabwe, has been a feature of every South African’s life. Especially in 2008 (when I wrote this review), when electoral confusion met possible social carnage and the Zim treasury took to printing on only one side of the currency, because its value was so laughable.

What better time, then, to read Lauren Liebenberg’s debut The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam?

Peanut Butter has a lot of Spud in it, due largely to its deliciously naïve and heartbreakingly frank little narrator. It also has a fair helping of The Power of One in it, in terms of its backdrop of civil war, pain, inter-racial tension and power struggle.

But perhaps the most appealing thing about this exquisitely written book is that it is a story about sisters; about being young; about mad grandparents and stressed out parents; and about growing up in beautiful, abundant, troubled, damaged Africa.

At the same time, there are two things about this book that profoundly disturb me.

The first is its antagonist, Ronin – the calibre of serpentine evil teenager that makes you want to have your tubes tied immediately and without remorse. The second is that, even though Peanut Butter is fiction, so much of it, especially the unpalatable parts, is true.

Regardless, it’s a must-read.