I’ve heard about the 1992 Molo clashes whenever the topic of tribalism in Kenya comes up. However, I have never had the opportunity to know what exactly happened and how it happened. It’s Kinyanjui Kombani’s familiarity to the incidents that occured and the characters involved that makes this book so creditable. I mean, he also includes the geography of the area where all this was happening. If I was as curious enough, I’d have planned to pay a visit some day; luckily I’m bad with directions.
I don’t want to pre-empt the book, because it’s a great read. So I’ll review it based on the thought angle I took as I read it. When you visit a place, do you ever wonder what the stories behind the people you encounter are? This is regardless of their status – the house help, the watchman, your colleague, the beggar or the street boy. Because you’d be surprised the stories that people carry around, yet we’re very quick to condemn and judge them. Well, that’s the first thing I did when I read the 1st chapter. There’s the ghetto crowd – Stella, Bafu, Bone, Ngeta, Bomu – from how they conduct their business, you’d love to hate them. Nancy on the other hand, is an uptown girl who takes interest in the ghetto crowd and decides to stick by them. As I read on, I was like, “a girl’s got guts.”
This book was a clear indication that when you interact with people, sometimes, what you see is just the surface of who they are or what they have gone through. That sometimes, people do what they do not because they like/enjoy it, but because they’re left with no other alternative. That sometimes, the lifestyle chooses them and not vice versa. That’s why they say, “be nice to the other person for you don’t what problem they’re dealing with,” because everyone is dealing with something.
KK introduces the characters in a sneaky way and takes you through a journey of how they came to be – a journey of how they came to acquire their nicknames, who they were before this life they live chose them. It’s an emotional journey, because first you judge them and you wonder what kind of animal-like people these are. It sounds crude, but it’s true. As he unveils their characters and what they’ve been through to get to where they are, you can’t help but start having a soft spot for them. As you read on, their feelings became in sync with yours, you’re happy when they’re in their happy place and you’re frustrated when they when things go wrong for them. In the end, you become the spectator on the benches cheering them on or uttering, “Don’t go there, that’s a trap.” And with that, he simply sustains that feeling of suspense throughout the book.
When KK brought me ‘Den of Inequities’ after I placed an order via Twitter, he told me, once you finish that one chances are that you’ll want to read the 1st one I wrote ‘The Last Villains of Molo’. And when I finished reading it, true to his word, that’s exactly what happened.
The funny thing is, when I finished ‘The Last Villains of Molo’, I felt like ‘Den of Inequities’ was its sequel. In a subtle way, he hints of it in the lifestyle of the characters he portrays. Some characters also spill over to the other book i.e. Gosti. For that I give him extra points, those links make the book more interesting. It keeps your memory active as you try to piece events and characters together for it to add up and make the story juicier. If that was his plan, it worked. If it just occurred by chance, it definitely worked too.
Of the two books, I related more to ‘Den of Inequities.’ It’s closer home when it comes to issues pertaining to the society.
Two thumbs up KK. Keep writing, we’ll keep reading!
Current Read: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Late to the party huh?
Signing Off ~~~ *Kawi*