The Heroine Next Door
By Zeena Nackerdien
Zeena Nackerdien is an accomplished biochemist, researcher, and patient advocate who has devoted her life to helping her home country of South Africa in its war against HIV/Aids as well as TB and other diseases plaguing the country. I applaud those efforts and Ms. Nackerdien.
When I was approached to do a book review of her novel, The Heroine Next Door, I was excited. I thought I would be delving into the rich experiences of this multicultural woman. Born and mostly educated in South Africa during the last years of Apartheid. She comes to the United States with a lofty goal of furthering her knowledge in an effort to help her people. In the pages of her book, I see glimpses of that story and there is a glimmer of the beauty I think that story would hold. However, what I received reads more like a dissertation more suitable for a scientific journal.
The story of Leila Hassan pulled me in at first. There is plenty of detail about her life. Instead of the characters living their lives, it reads like something counting off plot points in rapid fire succession. It reminded me of slides from college science courses meant to throw the bare facts at students for the purpose of examinations. I wanted to share in the experiences of this woman as she came to America and adjusted to Western culture versus her Muslim upbringing and religious roots. I was sadly disappointed with more facts and figures on research into treatments for HIV/AIDS and TB.
I won’t bore you gentle readers with anything more except to say that I saw a potential in the words that Zeena Nackerdien gave us. There is a story, or maybe many stories, to be told by the characters she glosses over. I would certainly read those stories when they appear.