The opening pages of the book, The Last Lifeline introduce us to Mma Kgomotso Palai as an outpatient in the physiotherapy department in St. Luke Hospital. She is also a science teacher at a private school. An accident she was involved in has left her neck broken and could as well affect the functioning of one of her hands.
But before the accident, Palai describes herself as: “I am a forty-something-have-it-all. I have a successful husband, I’m the mother of twins and I have a thriving career. Many women would bend themselves double to trade places with me…..” Although the story revolves around the narrator’s life after the accident, one is able to reconstruct a story about her life before the accident through her recitations.
The book is set in Botswana, but with snippets into other places around the globe like South Africa, Uganda, Kenya and Sweden to mention a few. The development success of Botswana (as compared to other African countries) is reflected in the luxurious lifestyle of Palai- of rich meals and fine clothing and access to the best medical care, but also mentioned is the burden of the AIDS scourge on her people.
Although Palai is on her way to recovery, she still has lots of hurdles to cross before she can be her normal self again. It is evident, as one reads through that when we go through life, we have a lot to learn. Sometimes life will throw us a smile and a tear. But moreso, loyal friends and family do help us escape or face the blows life has thrown at us and overcome them. Palai, throughout her ordeal is supported by Nono, her faithful servant and the patients and doctors at the physiotherapy department become her other supportive family. Her friends, mothers, sons and sister, even though close and very dear to her, are in most cases too far away to offer any physical comfort. She has to make do with the long distance calls and emails as she struggles to go through the treatment.
There is Sarah, her best friend who always encouraged her to “be positive for the sun will come up tomorrow. You will feel its warmth on your neck once again”. There’s May, her only sister who; even though living miles away in Sweden; calls her and sends her messages of fighting back at the challenges. She says “…….let’s fight back with all that we have. We all heal by loving connections…” Then there’s Lebogang, a volunteer physiotherapist at the hospital, who even though he has challenges of his own, decides to throw a lifeline to patients depressed about what their lives have become. ‘When you throw a lifeline to someone in great need, then God throws a lifeline to you in your time of need.’
It is a book that teaches us a lot about loyalty, the importance of friends (no matter how far they are) especially in times of challenges. She says: ‘the most priceless gift after life and family is an old, genuine and loyal friend.’ However, in writing the narrative, the author tends to begin new chapters in a more or less similar manner which creates monotony and makes the reading more predictable. But in the end, there are some surprising twists that intrigue the reader. Not only was she fighting for her life, she was fighting for her independence as well- to be free from a ‘dead’ marriage.
Jane Nannono is a Ugandan qualified medical doctor, with a degree from Makerere University. She currently works and lives in Botswana, with her three children and two nieces. She is an avid reader and has always dreamed of writing novels and with this novel, one can say that her dream has materialized.