The main character of the novel Mother to Mother by Sindiwe Magona is Mandisa. She is a black South African woman who is writing to the mother of the white young woman her son killed. The narrative is told in first-person by Mandisa, and readers get insight into her thoughts and feelings. Throughout the novel, Mandisa interacts with many characters, most of whom are members of her own family. 

Mandisa has three children, with three different fathers: Mxolisi, the eldest boy, with China; Lunga, the middle child, with a man named Lungile; and Siziwe, the youngest girl, with Dwadwa, the man Mandisa is currently married to. Most of the novel revolves around Mxolisi and the unexpected way he arrived into Mandisa’s life, as well as what his upbringing was like. This all shows why Mxolisi came to be involved in the murder of a young white woman. 

Mandisa’s parents, Mama and Tata are also important characters in the novel. Mama is a strict parent who is over-protective of Mandisa and tries to ensure she does not get pregnant, which damages their relationship. Mandisa’s aunt Funiwe is the person who notices Mandisa’s pregnancy and tries to get the family to support Mandisa through it. 

The white woman who is killed by Mxolisi is also an important character. Though her name is not mentioned in the story, she is meant to be Amy Biehl, as the author’s note suggests. 

Other significant characters include Mandisa’s grandmother, Makhulu, or her white employer Mrs Nelson. Mandisa’s relationship to many of these characters develops as the story progresses, and her relationship to Mxolisi is a particularly important part of the novel. 


Here, you can read an extract from one of characters pages: 

Mandisa’s relationship with Mxolisi is a complicated one. On the one hand, Mandisa initially feels angry at Mxolisi and resentful of the way the child’s arrival disrupts her life and her plans for the future: “what turmoil the coming of this child had brought into my life. […] I was forced into being a wife, forever abandoning my dreams, hopes, aspirations. For ever” (p. 132). 

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