April Book Review – Confessions of a gambler- Rayda Jacobs

Written by on April 12, 2010 in Book Club

Confessions of a Gambler

Reviewed by Saaleha Bhamjee – Afrocentric Muslimah

Let me say from the outset. It is compulsive reading. Take it up only when you have the time to finish it. Once you start you’ll be itching to get to the last page.

Confessions of a gambler by Rayda Jacobs is a multi faceted read, simply written, yet complex and varied in the themes that it tackles. Amongst these, the most difficult for me was homosexuality in the life of a Muslim.

Abeda, or Beeda as she is called by family, is a single mother who has triumphed over desertion by her husband during her pregnancy with her third child. She has fought hard to conquer her feelings for a love that she is not meant to have. She has struggled with the knowledge that her son is gay choosing to ignore the reality as a means of coping with it. But when he calls her to tell her that he has AIDS her carefully constructed world comes crashing down around her ears. And her love as a mother is tested as she strives to hold the fragile threads of her family together.

She finds a twisted solace in a demon that will eventually bring her to the brink of destruction – gambling.

The book was fascinating for me, because I could identify with the protagonist. She, like me(i.e Afrocentric Muslimah), is a Muslim woman struggling to find her place within an Islamic framework. She too is struggling with the mixed messages that come from a community that has too long placed more emphasis on what others think as opposed to what God thinks.

She prays, fasts, wears the hijaab. But she has her secrets, her sins as she calls them. Confessions of a Gambler shows how a person can be fallible, yet deeply spiritual, which for me was refreshing.

The book oscillates effortlessly between her memories and the present. It brings to life the Cape Malay community. Vividly drawn to the point where you can hear the accent, smell the koeksusters. There is humour, love, laughter, shame, disgrace, pain. Textured and finely crafted. Unflinching in its honesty

It is tinged with tragedy, which for just a moment I felt was somewhat excessive. The scenes where Beeda describes the agony of addiction are so realistic that one is transported to the bright lights, whirring machines and music of coins pouring forth from a slot machine as one reads.
A truly memorable read. Richly deserving of a place of honour on any book shelf. Certainly one of my Top Ten reads of all time.

‘Confessions of a Gambler’ interview

Director Rayda Jacobs discusses her film, ‘Confessions of a Gambler,’ at the 25th Anniversary Miami International Film Festival

Confession of Gambler Movie trailer

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  1. Nanima says:

    I think the Imam in the trailer was the same one that was in Hajj with us..

  2. Fatima says:

    I have a very concerned opinion about the book,I understood that Beeda was always in a constant turmoil with herself, and with God to a certain extent. But i understood the book more as a quest to find herself and overcome her sins than searching for God. Don’t get me wrong, yes, she’s Muslim and practicing but she lives her Islam more as ‘to do’ things rather than real closeness to God. All the times she turned to God were either to repent for gambling or to get away from her sister’s husband. Though she sees gambling as a sin, she does not see adultery as one. She feels bad for her sister but does not feel bad morally [that’s what i think]. Same with when she had an affair with her Jewish boss.
    When Beeda turns to God, she’s ashamed yes, but she sees God more as a Judge. She goes to hajj to forget her love. She wears hi-jab so that he doesn’t ‘see’ her anymore.I’m basing all that on what she said and her thought process. I’m being critical because i feel like a quest for spirituality is much deeper than what Beeda was seeking for. I feel that the book sort off depicted Islam in a way that showed the women to be somewhat in modest and that behind the Hijab there is more haraam then halaal going on. It also portrayed the Islamic community to be very judgmental but i can sort-off agree to that as in South-Africa this is how society is but it has nothing to do with religion. There is a border between religion and culture and it kept getting mixed up and confused in the book. Over all it was a good read 🙂