By Fidel Namisi & Cheryl S. Ntumy
It’s 1996. The clever and conniving Senzo, 14, lives in an orphanage and attends the nearby township school, where he comes up with one get rich quick scheme after another. When some model-C school students make a field trip to Senzo’s school, Senzo falls head over heels with Ayanda, one of the model-C students. However, his classmate and rival Jasper, also 14, gets Senzo into trouble at school and Senzo’s hopes collapse when he’s publicly humiliated in front of Ayanda.
Jump forward fifteen years later to the present day. Senzo (29) has had little luck in his life. Unemployed. he has set up a business under the assumed name of Prophet Mazinga, and claims to heal all sorts of ailments, as well as solve bad luck, get people jobs, enlarge penises and bring back people’s lost lovers. However, he himself has had no luck in love.
Meanwhile, Jasper and Ayanda have also grown up and have hooked up with each other after Jasper started working for Ayanda’s father, Gideon. Jasper wants to marry Ayanda solely to gain control over a part of the company and sell it to the highest bidder, a corrupt businessman named Chairman.
When Ayanda spurns him yet again, Jasper – acting on the advice of Chairman – decides to visit a prophet to bring back his lost lover. As luck would have it, he visits Senzo, who has little difficulty piecing the puzzle together and realizing that his clients are Jasper and Ayanda, his old acquaintances from school. Overcome with nostalgic memories of love, Senzo is determined to see her again, and promptly falls in love with her again when he does.
Senzo assumes the persona of a wealthy philanthropist with a heart of gold, and endears himself to Ayanda when he feigns interest in the orphanage and feeding schemes she’s involved in.
When Senzo bumps into an elderly nun who remembers him from his orphanage days as a child, it seems the jig is up. But Senzo expertly manipulates the situation and makes Ayanda sympathize with him and fall even more in love with him.
But Jasper is coming closer and closer to the truth, leading to a climax in which all the lies that Senzo has been weaving catch up with him. But Jasper also has an intricate web of lies that he’s been weaving, which are destined to catch up with him.
“Love Back” explores the premise that true love is based on an open and honest relationship, and the lovers who keep secrets are bound to destroy themselves and their relationships.
This is a well-written adorable romantic comedy. It's firmly rooted in a familiar context (yay! for African stories that dare to tell tales beyond drought and politics) yet at the same time not alienating for someone who did not grow in the townships.
Like most rom-coms, there are the usual tropes of the imperfect but lovable protagonist, the perfect object of affection and the mean-jock, as well as a happy lack of concern about the underlying differences between Senzo and Ayanda, but it is actually this very blatant disregard for taking itself overly seriously that makes this book a pleasant read. Would definitely recommend this to people who want to be entertained. Fast paced action, love and delicious foreshadowing of ancestry... this book has it all.