Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Torn in the New SA - by Bronwyn McIntosh -Book Review

‘Torn in the New SA’ 
by Bronwyn McIntosh-  2010                                                              
Book Review by Eve Hemming
            The McIntosh’s left SA for USA several years ago with two small children. They felt that the country had failed to protect its millions of citizens. News of the senseless murder of a dear African friend of Bronwyn’s was the final straw. She drove to her husband’s office in Cape Town in her feisty way and announced. “We’re leaving!”  “Oh, where to?” quizzically enquired James, fantasising about a spontaneous weekend jaunt; not envisaging a life-altering move to the other side of the globe. Bronwyn’s friend’s murder was the final catalyst which triggered their epiphany to leave South Africa.
The McIntosh’s went in search of a safer milieu in which to raise their children, to discover that this choice brought huge sacrifices, adaptations and deep pain. The title of the book ‘Torn in the New SA’ emblemises these profound feelings of being torn. ‘I will not ever be completely whole again’ Bronwyn acknowledges.  
Threading the book together in her colourful, graphic style, Bronwyn shares her feelings about missing the land of her birth. She sorrowfully acknowledges that her children will not grow up in S.A. in ‘the wonderful cross-cultural mix’, and that she and her husband, James, chose to trade this for a life where they can sleep soundly every night; where the fears of violent crime are no longer part of their life and where their children are now safe and happy.
Interwoven through the book is their personal voyage, combined with hundreds of excerpts written by South Africans ‘at home’ and abroad. It’s a book filled with theirs and other people’s hurts, fury, emotions, fears, memories, regrets, courage, tragedies, heartaches, justifications, judgements, loves, wishes and dreams…
Bronwyn shared her reasons for leaving SA on an international website, for which she was publicly criticised by Mbeki in his online ANC newsletter (ANC Today) in October 2004. (
The book’s genesis developed after Bronwyn received a spate of email responses. Bronwyn’s on line article hit a raw nerve for many South Africans, and the flood gates opened, which provided a plethora of rich material to add to her own electric tapestry.
 It’s a book which encompasses the whole spectrum – people’s fears, losses and outrage at violent crime, the palpable heartache of people who’ve immigrated, others confusions about making choices or attempting to justify why they stayed or left SA, and anger directed at those who left...
This pot pourri shares what the people of SA have been feeling, thinking and experiencing. Bronwyn has courageously taken the metaphorical large wooden spoon and blended the spectrum of people’s visceral emotions into the mixing pot; together with her own feisty ingredients.
Some excerpts are heart wrenching, whilst other parts are a celebration of the things we hold dear and revere about S.A
It’s a brutally honest and heart-rending book about extremes - one contributor said he’d be content to be employed to clean the road with a toothbrush if he could immigrate. Another said that it would require someone to physically scrape him off Africa with a spatula.
The diversity of contributions to the book means that the lens swings from one extreme to the other, thus allowing the reader to see through others’ eyes, and not only from one’s own subjective choices or circumstances. It exposes the reality that the choice to either stay or leave is fraught with levels of trauma.
This book may facilitate one to come to terms with personal choices and challenges, or jolt one into a new realisation. It may bring old hurts to the surface and agitate one’s sensibility. It’s a book that hits you - one will find that someone’s words may echo one’s own. Every reader is bound to acknowledge that the fragmented SA society is made up of passionate, resilient, courageous people, who all have that indelible survival quality, irrespective of where they live. Hopefully it will permit one to acknowledge that it requires courage to stay or leave, that no one can make such a complex choice for one and that one must seek one’s own inner state of peace.

Torn in the New SA - living, loving and leaving South Africa  available at,,

Bronwyn McIntosh’s website: 

 ' A must read for every Saffer emigrant/immigrant' - eve

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