Reviewed by Sinovuyo Ndaleni
“I attend church, and walk home filled with the sense of purpose preached by Mama’s priest. He paces around the stage, declaring: “God is in control, nothing is by chance. There is a purpose in everything, even in the place you are born.” I believe it.” (p.103)
Ijangolet’s debut novel takes the reader on a self-discovery and finding of one’s life purpose through the journey of twin sisters, Nyakale and Achen, separated at a young age. Set in South Africa and Uganda, Ogwang narrates the story of the lives of these two young women and how they navigate their life experiences that ultimately shape the women they become. The book alternates between each twin’s perspective and welcomes the reader into their inner and outer worlds.
A common theme in the book is one of seeking. The twins seek to understand why they were separated at a young age, wondering how life is for the other person and ultimately discovering one’s purpose for living. Achen, who grows up in Uganda, is not easily swayed by the idea of leaving the village and chasing her dreams in the city. She decides to stay in the village to fulfil her life’s purpose which entailed fighting for women’s rights in the village. Her belief in achieving her purpose makes her withstand the circumstances surrounding her and question why things are the way they are. Achen’s resilience emphasises the power of believing even when people around you say you should give up. Her belief made her stand firm in fulfilling her dream and be of service to others because she understood the change that needed to occur in the village.
Nyakale’s life takes a different route as she discovers her life’s purpose only when she is at university in South Africa. At a young age she is exposed to loss and grief and some of her experiences force her to question her identity and ultimately discover who she is. In discovering her purpose, she is faced with the need to confront the reality of being separated from her twin, leading her to meeting up with Achen in Uganda.
I enjoyed reading this book and switching between the perspectives of Nyakale and Achen. I loved how Ogwang builds the character of the two sisters by inviting the reader into each young woman’s thinking process, emotions and experiences. I saw myself identifying with some of the issues the sisters dealt with, having lived the village life and also having a taste of being in the city.
The book is full of wisdom and thought provoking statements that leave the reader questioning their own ideas about their life’s purpose. It also covers a multitude of topics which would call for dinner table discussions. Themes of personal loss, identity, belonging, friendship and finding one’s purpose exist throughout the book, which makes for an intriguing read.
‘An Image In A Mirror’ showed me the importance of conviction leading you in the direction of the things that set your heart on fire, even though there may be no proof of a guaranteed outcome. This radical act of belief, evident in Nyakale and Achen’s stories after discovering their passions, is also true of Ogwang herself, venturing into the literary scene while completing her degree in Finance. I would say it has certainly paid off.