Title: Brutal Legacy
Publisher: MFBooks Joburg, an imprint of Jacana Media
Author: Tracy Going
I didn’t cry when reading the Brutal Legacy, yet the screams of both the author and her mother triggered noises in my ears. I have heard these cries before. I can identify clearly with them. Yet, I shall not weep for Tracy. As Shakespeare once said, ‘to weep is to make less the depth of grief.’ I know the fear that comes from what is supposed to be a fountain of love and comfort. I know the apprehension that lingers on in between while waiting for the next episode. The movie is familiar. The cast is different. I have acted in this movie as both a starring as well as a villain. Both roles continue to haunt me in my sleep.
The Brutal Legacy is a brutally honest account of abuse, loss of innocence and re-imagining of self in an unforgiving patriarchal environment. It’s a story of the devastation caused by gender-based-violence. It’s about disintegrating families; a potent manuscript that offers a glimpse of that twilight zone between courage, and fear. The story is told with ease and lucidity without any attempt to illicit sympathy neither is it bathed in nostalgia. The writer tells it as she remembers it. She writes beautifully as though she was reporting from the frontlines. It’s indeed a sad book. One draws no comfort from the fact that our protagonist survived not only the alcoholic father, abusive partner but also the re-traumatization by the justice system and media. If there’s any comfort, it’s a cold one. The statistics on gender based violence tell the story. It’s an epidemic. It’s a sad indictment on our nascent democracy that the drama unfolded right in front of our eyes in the new South Africa.
Tracy is redrawing the contours of memoir writing, breaking new ground as it were. While the story is extremely distressing, its powerful narrative, lucid description of landscapes and the powerful use of ideophones lull’s one into thinking this is a novel. This shows that this is the work of a mature author with a wide vocabulary and rich imaginations enhanced by her unfaltering memory of miniature details of her life. Her childhood memories are not the ‘predicament’ of the book, yet they provide some sort of context to the main theme, that of a brutal family legacy. In another triumph for the mainstream publishing, the two stories (childhood memories and adult abuse) sit side-by-side comfortably with the latter overlaid by the actual ‘predicament’ of the book. It’s so expertly done that you’re not left wondering about the back story. In the end both women (mother and daughter) survive the ordeal of abuse.
However, the words of the presiding magistrate at the Tracy’s criminal trial will haunt me for the rest of my mortal self, “he deserves a second chance.” Notwithstanding, Tracy shows that life is so beautiful, and for it to flow like the river Nile, we have stand firm, fight and live another day.