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Another Kenyan steals the limelight over high-praised new book

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

(GIN) — She was the “Woman of the Year,” winner of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing, screenwriter and organizer of the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

Now, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Kenyan by birth like her sister Lupita Nyong’o, has a stunning new novel under her belt that is winning breathless reviews from the book trade.

Taiye Selaise, reviewer for The New York Times, gushed: “In this dazzling novel you will find the entirety of human experience — tearshed, bloodshed, lust, love — in staggering proportions. “

Owuor sets the story in arid northern Kenya amid the political turmoil of the latter half of the 20th century — from the Mau-Mau uprisings against British colonial rule in the early 1950s to the shocking political assassination of Tom Mboya in 1969 to the post-election violence of 2007.

From page one, the book will be an obstacle course for speed readers. It brims with imagery and is dense with language. Reviewer Vivek Sharma observes: “Owour delivers many remarkable, poetic short sentences. Short sentences and paragraphs that puncture your thoughts. You gasp before you carry on reading. You gasp first at the beauty of the wordplay, then you gasp as you grasp the insight or ache that each needle-shot sentence releases.

“The novel emerges in all its intricate and articulate richness through lives transformed by a recent colonial experience as well as political upheavals and corruption in an emergent nation. Perhaps you can appreciate this novel more if you have a native sympathy with the fate of people scarred by colonial pasts and a present corrupted, manipulated by economic interests of multinational companies and their local, vocal, powerful, corrupt collaborators.”

The reader who loves books will appreciate the magic Owuor has made of the classic nation-at-war novel.

Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan author of “One Day I Will Write about This Place,” remarks: “Her narrative power tears through the landscapes of Kenya — life, cheap death, torture, love, friendship.

“You will meet a mother with an AK-47, a father shamed by a secret, betrayed by a nation. The varied landscapes of Kenya have never been more tenderly made alive… This is the novel my 21st century has been waiting for, for our world in these seismic times.”

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