I am an avid reader in addition to honing my craft as a Blogger, and most of my favorite novels are from American writers. James Patterson and Eric Jerome Dickey top my list of novelists. I don't know if e-readers have yet taken over in Africa but here in the States most people seem to prefer touchscreens to paperbacks. But not I; there's something about the experience of holding a physical book and going back over important parts after I finish it, that I can find no substitute for. I hate it and love it when a book holds my attention to the point of not being able to put it down. Any of the Alex Cross series or Resurrecting Midnight come to mind.
As I was perusing CD's and potential books to read the other day, I came across Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. The writer was born in Kenya and currently lives in Australia. While I've currently been working on a series about African countries involved in the Arab spring, I haven't had the opportunity to fully understand the travails that have affected citizens of Kenya. Becoming immersed in the total quilt that is Africa is going to take a while. The story revolves around Odidi Oganda. He was murdered in Nairobi and the effects that it had on his family are recounted as the novel progresses. In particular, Odidi's sister Ajanay is left to cherish the memories of her Brother and ponder a future with the lessons that he taught her. Devastation and after effects of war are also evident .
One memorable scene in the novel is set in 1963. This was, coincidentally, the year of my birth in the United States. It references war and upheaval. Some of the characters painted in the novel are gaunt or holding on to distant memories. The following phrase is from a Pokomo lullaby:
Eh Mungu Nguve Yetu
Ilete Baraka Kwetu
Hake iwe ngao na mlinzi
It translates as O God of all creation, Bless this our land and nation, Justice be our shield and defender. I like the rhythm of the phrase. I couldn't catch the meaning of another phrase; 'Par Oganda odong nono'.
This novel also reference the British influence in this country. Europeans took the best that we had and left a trail of destruction in many instances. It mentions qhat, which I now know to be a drug common to East Africa. Anything to take the edge off of war and despair.
I am working hard to finish the novel. It is the debut novel for Owuor, and I must say I've been impressed. Do people really eat fermented meat and sour milk? I wonder if the title of the book references fleeting dreams or the lack of a permanent foundation in her home country. I would also like to read novels by other East African authors. Any suggestions?