Main protagonist Mercia is homesick. After 26 years of living in the UK, she is returning home. This urge to return home is motivated by a letter she receives from her brother Jake who suggests she returns to help take care of his son and her heartbreak from the recent departure of her longtime partner, who leaves her for another woman.
She returns to South Africa to issues that are more chaotic than she expected.
The story is an in-depth look at a returnees journey back home and her contemplations between Scotland where she has created a new life as an academic and South Africa – a place that reminds her of her painful past.
“Mercia Murray is a woman of fifty-two years who has been left.” Abandoned by her partner in Scotland, where she has been living for twenty-five years, Mercia returns to her homeland of South Africa to find her family overwhelmed by alcoholism and secrets. Poised between her life in Scotland and her life in South Africa, she recollects the past with a keen sense of irony as she searches for some idea of home. In Scotland, her life feels unfamiliar; her apartment sits empty. In South Africa, her only brother is a shell of his former self, pushing her away. And yet in both places she is needed, if only she could understand what for. Plumbing the emotional limbo of a woman who is isolated and torn from her roots, October is a stark and utterly compelling novel about the contemporary experience of an intelligent immigrant, adrift among her memories and facing an uncertain middle age.
With this pitch-perfect story, the “writer of rare brilliance” (The Scotsman) Zoë Wicomb—who received one of the first Donald Windham–Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes for lifetime achievement—stands to claim her rightful place as one of the preeminent contemporary voices in international fiction.
Zoë Wicomb is mostly recognized for her past work exploring issues of Apartheid and racial identity. She currently resides in Glasgow where she teaches creative writing at the University of Strathclyde.