I picked this book up because the woman on the cover looked so familiar to me and I could not put it down until I had finished it, with many tears shed along the way.
Let me start by saying that despite moving me to tears, there is no dripping sentiment in this story. Sister Abegail tells it like she lives her life- with love and common sense and a delightful sense of humour.
She tells her story from her birth in a mud hut in KwaZulu-Natal to her receipt of the Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award in 2009 for her work in the community with AIDS orphans. She deals with racism and cultural issues with the ease of one who is comfortable in her own skin and although she is a natural diplomat, she is not one to say “no” to without a very good reason!
If it is possible for a story to make you a better person, then this one has done it for me. There are so many lessons to be learnt from Sister Abegail: being grateful for what we have, not giving up on things that are important, being brave, embracing change and emptying our hands: being receptive to help and blessings.
Sister Abegail has achieved so much with so little and all the odds stacked against her. She is a veritable Atlas, with the weight of her community on her shoulders, but she still manages to take time for the important things: refereeing football matches and dishing out ice-cream. If ever there was a case for cloning, Sister Abegail Ntleko is it. Read it with empty hands.
Title: Empty hands: a memoir: one woman's journey to save children orphaned by AIDS in South Africa.
Author: Sister Abegail Ntleko
Reviewed by Monica F, Orewa Library.
Monica F is happiest in gumboots and apron, attending to her animals, harvesting her crops and making stuff. Like all truly wholesome people, she has a dark side, and enjoys nothing better than well written true crime and forensic medicine.