Gloria Mwaniga Minage’s Boyi is a set-up

Reviews & Notable mentions

Alright, now the way Boyi starts lets you know right away that it’s a setting up in the offing. I mean…‘‘Hold onto the boy until I find your forty thousand land protection tax and then I will have him back.’’ Now who does that?  Well, Baba did. And everything went haywire after that.

Soon after, Mama goes bonkers with heartbleed. She does erratic things owing to a certain someone who’s now out of the equation. She’s now come unhinged and being around her is not the smartest move for Baba or Boyi’s sister. And Baba? He’s a man stuck between a rock and the SALADEF Militia. “Did he think a child was like a mat, which one folded and gave back to the owner after sitting on, or a dress, which one could borrow from a neighbor?” Mama asks him that and he knows it. But what would you have had him do?”

He talks of whole families of heads relieved of their bodies, and ears and a certain dictator who ate them, and frankly, we all see where he’s coming from. He did something he ought not to have done, according to the SALADEF Militia and when they come knocking on his door and say to him, ‘‘Mzee Give us the 10,000 land protection tax and 30,000 betrayal tax or today we will show you smoke without fire.’’ what else could he have done? Obviously he’s not so eager to see smoke without fire. Neither are we.

The plot thickens.

But yet, this is as far as I can go without giving away the story. No spoilers allowed. Gloria Mwaniga weaves a horrendous tale of loss that depressed me for the time it took me to read it. These stories are made more real by the fact that stuff like this has actually happened and is happening all around us, from South Sudan to Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, name it. She has captured the emotions real-life feel when beset by indescribable heartache and what it does to their sanity.

The plot is air-tight, the story is pacey from start to finish. It leaves no room for wandering thoughts, because hey, you might lose focus for just a second and something you wouldn’t expect happens to the characters. I did not fully understand some of the proverbs but oh well, we can’t get them all, can we?

My favorite part? “My friend Chemutai, before her family moved  away to Chwele, said that my breasts grew too fast because I spent too much time lying on the ground outside the musasa tree reading books instead of working chapchap like a normal girl.” Now that was hilarious!

By Sydney Mugerwa

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