A stunning debut novel, The Reactive resonates with themes of masculinity and addiction, and tackles the subject of HIV unflinchingly.
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, memories and the redemption that comes from facing what haunts us most.
Praise and Reviews
“[The Reactive is] one of this year’s most startling novels.” Mail & Guardian
“Electrifying… [Ntshanga] succeeds at exploring major themes—illness, family, and, most effectively, class—while keeping readers in suspense. Ntshanga’s promising debut is both moving and satisfyingly complex.” Kirkus Reviews
“With The Reactive, [Ntshanga] has created an immersive and powerful portrait of drug use, community, and health issues by exploring what it was like to be young, black, South African, and HIV positive in the early aughts.” Vice
“[T]he story that results from… dual past and present, rural and urban lives is intriguing and funny in its darkest moments.” GQ
The Reactive will probably remain, along with Imraan Coovadia’s High Low In-between and Jonny Steinberg’s Three Letter Plague, as a seminal work confronting [a] period in our country’s history.” Sunday Independent
“Woozy, touching… a novel that delivers an unexpected love letter to Cape Town, painting it as a place of frustrated glory. The Reactive often teems with a beauty that seems to carry on in front of its glue-huffing wasters despite themselves.” Marian Ryan, Slate
“In Ntshanga one finds an erudite writer of exceptional talent, a critical new voice in the contemporary post- apartheid literary scene.” Cape Times
“Elegiac… an astoundingly brilliant novel, radiating with understanding and compassion. It fulfils William Faulkner’s injunction that ‘the poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man; it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.’” City Press
“This is an author who knows how to creep into [the] cracks, and shine the light fiercely. It’s blinding and leaves you quite breathless.” Daily News