The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption- Taona Dumisani Chiveneko


I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. What attracted me the most to this book was the fact that it was set in Zimbabwe ; I’d never read a book written by a Zimbabwean author before, a part of the world that I am very familiar with.

The content of the book probably isn’t what one would characteristically associate with Africa , which adds to its appeal. At first we meet Abel Muranda, a man from rural Zimbabwe, who walks from his village (three weeks of travel) to the Zimbabwean capital of Harare in order to interview for the country’s hangman (!!!) position. Abel is a simple, likeable man who somehow gets trapped in a web of intrigue. People who meet Abel also note that he “…is quite intelligent for an uneducated peasant. Articulate, even. He speaks in the Shona of five generations ago. Wise, reflective, prone to using the most unexpected words. His outdated version of the language reflects values that may be misplaced in modern times, but still, the man himself is interesting.”

Abel is the first of many fascinating idiosyncratic characters we meet. For me one of the best things about this book were all the kooky characters. There were several of them and all were great and funny in their own way. The storyline is also pretty fascinating, dealing with carnivorous plants, genetic engineering, organ trafficking among other topics.

Chiveneko is a great storyteller and so many parts of this book made me laugh out loud.The tone is very witty and the writing is erudite. Additionally, the book contains some home truths that made me ponder. For example, regarding journalism and the media: “Journalists wrote for the mass market. However, they tended to suffer from a critical flaw. Readers wanted the world explained in simplistic terms. Villains and heroes had to be clearly defined.”

And also, “The media had the potential to become the frontline in the battle against ignorance. Unfortunately, most readers devoted too much of their intellectual capacity to frivolity.”

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for a unique, witty and entertaining read.


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