“The Thia-La-La butchery is one of Mokhotlong’s premier noon hotspots—is in fact Mokhotlong’s only noon hotspot. Midday at Thia-La-La involves a chaotic press toward the lunch counter, a Soviet-style food rush as the hungry masses of the eastern mountains shove their way forward. They wave for attention and slam money on the counter, while the staff responds with a whirlwind of inactivity, since it is not the Basotho way to rush”
This scene is one of many we get in Will McGrath’s memoir, EVERYTHING LOST IS FOUND AGAIN. In this book, we follow McGrath in Lesotho—a small African country landlocked by South Africa. As we read, we meet many Basotho, also known as the natives of Lesotho, learn about their culture and daily life, as well as see how the AIDS epidemic has influenced the country. We see all of this through the eyes of author Will McGrath, and, in this writer’s view, he communicates it all through descriptive and electrifying language. McGrath embeds himself in Lesotho—he writes not as merely an observer, but as a participant in his tale.
Lesotho Happy Times and Tragedies in EVERYTHING LOST IS FOUND AGAIN
About one in four adults are HIV positive in Lesotho. Whilst this impacts many lives— both of adults and children born HIV positive—McGrath chooses to not define Lesotho as a landlocked country with an AIDS epidemic. Like a person, Lesotho is much more complex than that, and Will McGrath shows us many of the aspects of life there—such as the comically absurd names of the minibuses Angelina: Born from a True Woman, Slow Poison, Red for Danger, Feel It, and his visiting of The Whitehouse, a bar and airport, or as McGrath describes it: “all airports have bars, but this bar has an airport”. And this bar/airport is where he runs into three men dancing to Akon and holding quarts of beer outside their all-doors-flung-open car.
McGrath also shows us Lesotho’s sense of humor, music taste, and we even get some lessons in Sesotho, one of the languages spoken there. We hear stories of those impacted by HIV and lets us get to know the people affected. We can feel McGrath’s own closeness with these people shine through the page as well. Some of these include the stories of Retselisitsoe and Thato, two HIV-positive boys that he knew from the safe home for children orphaned by AIDS.
Another person we meet is Nthabeleng, who runs this very safe home. McGrath describes her as “the show-runner, the point guard, the boss of the Basotho… a fixer. Can’t get antiretroviral meds? She’s the person to talk to. Don’t have food for the baby? She’ll hook you up. Need a ride to the clinic? Hop in”.
Overall, this book subverts expectations of a memoir taking place in Africa, in this writer’s opinion. Instead, we get a tale about experiences that are different than what we would have in the U.S.
This book would be a good fit for anyone with an interest in African countries, and especially for those looking who appreciate a memoir that touches on both serious topics, like the AIDS epidemic, to the more humorous and light topics, such as daily life and the experiences of a teacher.
For more information or to purchase a copy, visit the Dzanc Books website for EVERYTHING LOST IS FOUND AGAIN
Editor’s Note: The author of this review is a former intern for this publisher, Dzanc Books.
Book cover image courtesy of Dzanc Books
All other images courtesy of Herbert Bieser
About the Author: Nichole Gould
Today, she does things a little differently and her writing covers topics of disillusionment, nature, family, homecoming, and growth. She attempts to tackle these topics in an experimental and dreamy way, through both nonfiction and fiction, and sometimes, when she’s feeling confident, poetry. Nichole also spent a semester in Oregon, studying writing and hiking among the moss. Although she misses traveling, she enjoys exploring the magic of the Great Lakes in her home state of Michigan. When she’s not writing or traveling, you can find her reading, bookstore hopping, looking for her dream job as a recent grad, or hanging out with her 16-year-old cat, Kyle.