Books

Book review: Miracle Girl teaches us to fight even when it seems inevitable

2019-04-07 20:49

Miracle Girl – Life Stories from a Xhosa Girl by Sivosethu Ndubela and Tony Pearce

Pan Macmillan SA

84 pages

. . . . -

After being pronounced dead by the doctors who had just operated on her, Vovo had to show them that she was, in fact, still alive, so she let out a shallow breath...

Scenes like this will keep you turning the pages of Miracle Girl, the inspiring true-life story of Sivosethu “Vovo” Ndubela, and you’ll read it in one sitting if you put aside a little time.

Vovo is a Xhosa girl from New Brighton in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, and this is the tale of the trials she has endured and overcome regarding her rare heart condition and also the socioeconomic hardships she was born into.

In an autobiographical book that could just as well be titled Phoenix, Vovo learnt to be feisty and strong from an early age to survive.

She, along with her sister Vuyolwethu, are taken under the wing of businessperson, teacher and co-author of the book Tony Pearce when she is just 13 years old. Crime and chronic disease had stolen the lives of her father and mother.

Pearce, a colleague and friend of Vovo’s late mother, took them on as his own children. He comes across as a simple and loving person who believes that women are not destined to simply be married and bear children, but that they should also get an education, pursue careers and live full lives.

The story must also, therefore, navigate its way between Pearce’s and Vovo’s clashing cultures to arrive at a place where it shows just how strong their bond has become over time. Although they have different beliefs, they have respect for one another.

One of the things Pearce teaches Vovo is the significance of knowing one’s cultural roots.

Poverty and crime in the townships are topics that we have read a lot about, but, through Vovo’s personal journey and how she never let obstacles like illness stand in the way of her happiness, Miracle Girl helps to amplify these issues without being bleak or lecturing.

“I have had a white guardian from a different country and culture. Tony always tells me to respect my culture and to never forget where I come from,” Vovo writes.

He also acted as a maternal figure by speaking about romantic relationships and how her body would change so that she did not fall pregnant as a teenager, which is one of the social ills many girls face in townships.

This book made me realise that being fostered by someone with a different culture and tradition is not an impossible situation, though it is unusual.

Poverty and crime in the townships are topics that we have read a lot about, but, through Vovo’s personal journey and how she never let obstacles like illness stand in the way of her happiness, Miracle Girl helps to amplify these issues without being bleak or lecturing.

For a first-time author, the storytelling is excellent. The book is sequentially organised and recounts events in a style that the reader can follow without getting lost or confused. It is also playful with words and humorous, all the while informing and educating the reader.

If there is a lesson to take from this book, it is bravery – to keep up the fight even when it seems like defeat is inevitable. Vovo not once thought of throwing in the towel when things were falling apart.

It is a moving story to be read by everyone, with a takeaway that we need to look after ourselves and face our challenges with a positive spirit. After all, Vovo overcomes issues worse than most of us have to face.

She underwent life-threatening heart surgery after she was diagnosed with an unusual heart disease, and she survived against all odds.

If there is a lesson to take from this book, it is bravery – to keep up the fight even when it seems like defeat is inevitable. Vovo not once thought of throwing in the towel when things were falling apart.

She believed the operation would be a success and is determined to come out the other side alive, even when everyone has lost faith in her being able to beat the disease.

“Vovo always had a smile and never complained; she made jokes and kept all our spirits up,” writes Tony in Miracle Girl. She has the same affect on readers.

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June 23 2019