In a city that has lost its shimmer, Lindanathi and his two friends Ruan and Cecelia sell illegal pharmaceuticals while chasing their next high.
Lindanathi, deeply troubled by his hand in his brother’s death, has turned his back on his family, until a message from home reminds him of a promise he made years before.
When a puzzling masked man enters their lives, Lindanathi is faced with a decision: continue his life in Cape Town, or return to his family and to all he has left behind.
Rendered in lyrical, bright prose and set in a not-so-new South Africa, The Reactive is a poignant, life-affirming story about secrets, memory, chemical abuse and family, and the redemption that comes from facing what haunts us most.
Gritty and revealing, Ntshanga's debut novel offers a brazen portrait of present-day South Africa. Lindanathi tries not to think about his role in the death of his brother, Luthando, 10 years ago. Instead, he's usually concerned with living day to day, working minimum-wage jobs and selling antiretroviral medication (ARVs) alongside friends Ruan and Cecilia, whom he met at an HIV- and drug-counseling meeting. But the past comes calling in the form of a text message from uncle Bhut' Vuyo, beckoning Lindanathi to leave Cape Town and return home to the rural district of Dunoon to keep a promise. While contemplating a response to his uncle, Lindanathi and his cohorts get involved with a stranger who offers them more money for their ARVs than they can refuse. This mysterious client further prompts Lindanathi to confront the memory of where he's been and consider where he's headed. Ntshanga provides thoughtful commentary on social issues and disparities prevalent in regions of Africa, including the lasting effects of globalization, poverty, and colonialism. The first-person narrative is dark, honest, and compassionate. The realistic voices reflect the outlook of people who cannot think about long-term goals because their immediate circumstances are so dire. This is an eye-opening, ambitious novel.