‘The News of Her Death’ by Petina Gappah

Before she leaves Harare to return home to north London, Pepukai visits a hairdressing salon – one that makes her normal place in Finsbury Park look like “the Aveda in Covent Garden”. Her hairdresser, she is told, is late; but it quickly emerges that “late” here means dead. She has been shot the previous evening, and what follows is a multi-voiced, roiling narrative, with speakers continually popping in to join in the drama and share information about Kindness’s death. For Pepukai – already laughed at by the staff for the old-fashioned “Shabba Ranks” braids she’s asked for – it’s an education in the realities, hierarchies and gossip of Zimbabwean inner-city life whose impact we can only wonder at as she boards the flight back to Britain.

(Collected in Rotten Row, from Faber. Shortlisted for the 2016 Sunday Times Short Story Award, where you can read it online)

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