Book Review – Holding My Breath

Holding My Breath by Ace Moloi (Blackbird Books) ISBN 9781928337294

Ace Moloi invites you into his life where he writes an intimate, sad letter to his single mother ten years after her death.

Even though Ace is the youngest child, he had to grow up almost immediately and automatically become head of the household when his aunt leaves home and his older brother struggles to come to terms with the death of their mother. Ace longs for his mom’s guidance. Even though his mother had died she still reminded him of the teachings of their culture. Born in Qwa-Qwa, Eastern Free State, Ace takes us on a journey as he goes through his rather grim childhood and all the challenges he faced with the racial division at university including the political challenges in South Africa.

During Ace’s quest to find answers he embarks on a journey to find his father only to be disappointed. Ace has written a truly heartfelt and inspiring memoir to his mom that has left me thinking that regardless of all the adversity you go through, you can always rise above it and choose to change the direction of your life.

Tracy-Ann Damons


Holding My Breath is an apt title as Ace Moloi is always awaiting the next calamity. This memoir is presented as a letter to his deceased mother who passes away when he is thirteen. Ace and his older brother are raised in a single-parent home, so losing their mother means losing their anchor. Ace feels he has to break the family pattern of dire poverty and decides to drive himself towards this vision in thought and action.

His memoir describes the earlier years spent in his great-grandmother’s house. There are others in this house but they feel like outsiders. Then the two brothers and their mother move to a single room shack. Life is very difficult, but Ace does well in school even as he struggles with asthma.

Their mother’s step-father dies and leaves them his house. His mother earns R700 per month and works under appalling conditions. Ace goes to Phiri Intermediate School in Qwa Qwa, Free State, where he excels. He wants to be a footballer but realises as a village boy there is no chance he will be successful.

His mother dies just before he passes Grade 9 and a monster arrives at the house – his aunt’s boyfriend. It is a terrifying situation having no parent to turn to, and when his aunt leaves, they are left destitute. With all his trials and tribulations, Ace still becomes the village role model as he passes matric with a good academic record.

Ace visits his father but realises he has lost nothing. Perhaps his absence was a blessing in disguise. Now Ace has to make it on his own. He has been given a bursary to University of the Free State and graduates with a degree in corporate and marketing communications. He gains a leadership position in his residence and is involved with campus media. In December 2014 he becomes an intern for Johannesburg Roads Agency.

Holding My Breath is a heart-rending account of an underprivileged boy who pushes through extremely difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, he is not alone. To move ahead under these appalling conditions takes the ultimate courage and tenacity.

Dawn Blankfield

Posted on: 4th July 2016