The novel Mother to Mother by Sindiwe Magona is written in the form of a letter sent by Mxolisi’s mother Mandisa to the mother of the girl Mxolisi killed. The novel is inspired by the real-life murder of American girl Amy Biehl, who was killed in a riot during the last days of apartheid.

The novel has a non-linear narrative structure and is written in an epistolary form, as a letter. The novel switches between the day of the murder and flashbacks from Mandisa’s childhood and her life up to the murder.

The main characters of the novel are Mandisa and her son Mxolisi. The relationship between them is the main focus of the novel. Mandisa’s parents, Mama and Tata, as well as her first husband, China, and her current partner, Dwadwa, also play significant roles in the story. Though Mandisa never meets Amy, the woman Mxolisi murders, she is also a key character of the novel as Mandisa imagines what she must have been like and what happened to her.

The physical setting of the novel is in South Africa, from the 1970s to the 990s. Most of the story takes place in the township of Guguletu, where black people have been relocated to in order to segregate the population of Cape Town. The neighborhood of Blouvlei, where Mandisa grew up before the move to Guguletu, is also a key setting as it shows the impact the forced relocation had on the community.

The story is narrated from the point of view of a first-person narrator who is also the main character. Although the narrator is not present at all the events, she offers an imagined account, guessing also what other characters might be thinking and feeling.

The novel uses informal language. Xhosa words and phrases are used throughout the novel to offer realism to the characters and the setting. Many metaphors are used to describe things in engaging ways.

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