Read of the Week

Zephany Two mothers. One daughter.

Joanne Jowell

Tafelberg

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

The veil has finally been lifted on the untold side of the story that has captured our imaginations for more than 20 years.

The person at the centre of one of the most unbelievable and incredible stories has willingly come out of her protective shield to tell her side – which has been kept secret for five years.

Author Joanne Jowell was a good choice for Zephany Two mothers. One daughter. because her psychology background gave her an empathetic insight into the unique and complex story.

The book tells the personal story of Zephany Nurse or Miché Solomon, the name which she was given after being stolen from her drowsy mother’s hospital bedside in 1997, but several other voices also tell the story; her school teacher, her laywer, her social worker, her counsellor and her famously introverted “daddy”, Michael Solomon.

Jowell herself interjects with her own perspective of outsider turned insider. I found that as the layers unfolded, it was Jowell’s insights that pinged with resonance because hers was a voice that I, as a desperately curious reader, could relate to.

A lot of things in the book surprised me. Some of Miché’s statements are shocking, because, as Jowell writes in her prologue, “we think we know her”.

The book is filled with irony, an irony which is all the more poignant because it is not manufactured. For instance, Levona Solomon, the kidnapper, is considered by all, even her jail mates, as a nurturing, mother figure but her own biological children don’t survive, most not even until birth.

Also, the Solomons lived so near to the distraught Nurses that their paths crossed several times, such as when they attended annual Christmas parties in the same road as the Nurses.

There are numerous goosebump moments in the book, like Miché’s description of the strange sensation she underwent when she finally met her “doppelganger” Cassidy at school, who was actually her biological sister, or the bizarre intuition her mother, Celeste Nurse, had that Miché was pregnant while they were still estranged.

Miche’s retelling of the day when she was taken away from her “mother” was heartbreaking, as was the slow unfolding of acceptance that the people whom she loved best were not related to her at all.

Most surprising of all was Miché’s bold statement that she felt she had been better off with her “adoptive” parents – a sentiment that was echoed by one of her teachers.