Book 37 Completed
It’s officially the first day of summer vacation. During these next few months, Matt and I will reverse our roles — he will head back to work during the day and I will be the stay-at-home-parent. Last year, when Elliott was six months old, on the first day of summer break, I walked in to get him out of his crib and he welcomed me back home with a diaper catastrophe of epic proportions. As I was scrubbing poop off of the wall, I remember thinking, “Well, fantastic. Nothing can be more exhausting than this.” Right. Um. Fast forward to a TODDLER. I was sending a text and somehow Elliott had purchased “The Book of Eli” On Demand off our TV; he also managed to pull a Starbucks cup out of the garbage and drink days-old Mocha. And that was just in two hours.
I don’t care though. I love being home with my little man. For every want-to-pull-your-hair-out moment, there are these snapshots of utter perfection too. Can there be anything better than watching your child with a book in his/her hands, turning the pages and giggling? And I’m gearing up for a Powell’s trip today — by myself with the monstrous stroller — to buy some more books for me and the boy to share this summer.
But now on to the book:
This isn’t really a book I feel confident writing a review on. Nor am I equipped to speak about the profound political implications each of Ngũgĩ’s books had for him and for Kenya. I can only speak to this exact reading experience…and hope that in the process I am able to respect this man and his work. I’m not even feeling especially capable of discussing theme or symbolism — both of which are rich throughout. So, in retrospect, this review is a shallow attempt to write about a book that deserves much better treatment.
With all that prefacing…
I really enjoyed A Grain of Wheat. Ngũgĩ’s writing is superb; his ability to capture a character — his thoughts, her flickering of emotion, his habits, her distinct gait — kept me fully engrossed. Each character in this book is amazing and unique, and really, it’s a book that’s more about character than plot. The plot was secondary for me pretty much the whole way through. (And I recognize that the plot of this book IS the foundation for its political power. So, do with that what you will.)
It took me 50 pages to really get a feel for the rhythm of the book. It’s not linear and so sometimes it took me a few seconds to calibrate myself and figure out, “Whose story is this again? Are we in the past? Present?” But once I got swept up in the current of the story, I was amazed at how quickly I was reading it. Each story is woven together so seamlessly toward the end that you, as a reader, are utterly engrossed. And in my brain, I could almost hear the orchestra swell; I knew that we were heading down a tragic path — not all these characters would survive Kenya’s first Independence Day unscathed.
Ngũgĩ is a political writer — this book’s message to its reader is made clearer as the stories reach their climax. In terms of reading books for this challenge that capture the essence of a country, I feel like I was successful. I am planning on picking up Devil on the Cross today — the background behind that one is stunning. (While arrested, he wrote the entire novel secretly on toilet paper.) I think it is safe to say that Ngũgĩ is one of the most important writers of the 20th century and I’m glad I was introduced to him.