Book Review: Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges By Ciku Kimeria

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Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges
Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges

I read this book in one sitting as I travelled from Nairobi to Sotik town in South Rift Kenya, and still had the time to enjoy the spectacular scenery on the way. It tells a story about the tumultuous marriage of a middle aged couple – Wambui and Njogu – living in Nairobi. Wambui is a graduate with a Bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Nairobi. Njogu on the other hand – a cobbler’s son who dropped out of school at standard three – is a driver turned businessman. The disparity in their backgrounds soon becomes a problem in how they relate to each other, and with their relatives. They soon have to deal with infidelity and its consequences, which they both try to work through quite determinedly.

The story is told from each spouse’s perspective and from the perspective of the different people in their lives who include; Nyambura (Njogu’s mistress), King’ori (Njogu and Wambui’s son), Muriungi (Nyambura’s brother) among others. This style of narration greatly affects the flow of the story as it jumps from year to year giving the impression that the whole book is a summary of events. For this, I felt shortchanged.

For a story on marriage, love, hate and betrayal, the story fell short of eliciting any emotions from me. It is a bland narration that does not bring out the emotions of the characters. I felt nothing for Wambui and Njogu throughout their marital journey. I did not feel their love. Betrayal is just a word in the book with no feelings attached to it. This book does a great injustice to the storytelling mantra of “Show, don’t tell” as the story is simply narrated with words carrying no emotion.

I however liked that it is written in a simple style with common Nairobi jargon cleverly thrown into the plot. This left me with a sense of familiarity to what the author is writing about.

For that, and because I am a sucker for love, and for the unforeseeable twist at the end, I rate it a 2 out of 5.


Keeping up with the Joneses

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Welcome to my new home! I am still trying to find my way around it but it looks good from where I am standing. The windows are much bigger, letting in a very nice cool breeze from outside. The rooms are spacious and the lighting is much better too. Can we make it a beach house, I always fancied those. Why limit our imagination, let’s make it a bitch beach house! The whooshing water underneath the balcony is music to my ears – yeah, we have a balcony too! I get to watch the sunset and the sunrise! I hope the neighbors will be friendly here. Any chance, you think, that I could have a ‘Bree Van De Camp’ knocking at my door with a basket of freshly baked cookies? Mmm….a girl can only hope.

This is my new hideout sanctuary and I will keep coming here once in a while (hopefully, frequently enough) to give a piece of myself to you. I will look forward to those evening walks by the beach, always barefooted and with my hair loose just to feel the sand on my feet and the wind in my hair (The animal song by Savage Garden, comes to mind). I will watch the sun mate with the ocean at the horizon and take in the magnificent scenery. I will inhale the ocean breeze and lie down bare to let the warm sand have its way with my body. I will take it all in… and then let it all out.

This is a different neighborhood but the same precepts apply; there will be no makeup, no dress-ups and no superficiality. This woman will be laid bare.

My former hood taught me a few lessons and I know the drill by now; some people will acknowledge my presence here; some even think that I belong here (bless you!). The majority however, could care less and a much larger majority have no clue that I am here, bubbling under, yearning to burst out! I am like that neighbor, who comes home late at night and leaves at the wee hours of the morning. Do you know who remembers that neighbor’s face? You’re right, no one. No one even knows her name.

I am that neighbor who has one chair and one stool and I use the floor as my bed. I have no background music from a huge system to fuel my thoughts. My house is not furnished with cozy seats that have pillows poking out from all over. Nor a flat screen TV that makes the pictures come alive in your living room.

My neighbors however, have it all figured out. I wonder to myself whether they were ever in this place I am in right now. Where little made sense and they had no clue when they will get that first visitor to sit with through the lonely nights. I watch from a distance as my neighbors get visits from their minions. I am an amateur, they are pros. Their followers come over with drinks and they talk and play music all night. They offer the perfect food and the perfect atmosphere for them to ruminate over their genius ideas. Their homes are alive while mine is struggling between comas.

This is where I will pitch tent though, because I love it here. This is where I feel compelled to express myself, even if it is to an audience of one. When I am here, I can hear my heart pumping blood to my veins. My mind takes over and I become entranced with words that flow out from godknowswhere and I find myself getting it… putting it all into perspective. Friendly neighbors or not, this place makes me come alive and I don’t intend to leave soon. It’s me and my beach house till the end of time; for richer, for poorer, better or worse.

You can pay me a visit once in a while if you like. I will always offer you something; coffee, tea, or even a drink. Whatever I offer might be good for your taste buds or not, there are no guarantees. It may be palatable and manage to stay down or too revolting that it has to come back up. But I will offer it anyway.

We can huddle together with a mat on the floor – maybe make a bonfire – and you can tell me your story, as I tell you mine. You can choose to cry with me. Laugh with me, or at me. Ignore me even – whatever tickles your fancy. My aim is not to do this right. My aim is just to do. When I do it right, then that is a plus for me… and… you maybe?

On bad days, I will be dying for a hug – I know I will need one on many occasions – I hope you can give it to me. Other times however, I’ll need a very clean, well aimed, resounding, earth-shattering slap on the face to prompt me when I become lazy. I hope I can count on you for that too?

Bienvenue dans ma maison! (how am I doing so far?)