Book Review: Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

By Bennet Owuonda, CHIEF

I have just completed Dust.

A heartache.

No one writes like Yvonne.

Like an ancient storyteller, in a high poetic tone, like music made for ears not mortal. What Cormac Mccarthy does, when he drifts into ancient-sounding poetry, she sustains for an entire book.

They warned me about this book. I heard that many could not complete it. Fortunately, I have read really hard books and this isn’t one. It has a story to tell and it sustains the narrative throughout, not drifting into pages and pages of rambling as some books I’ve read do.

Sentences short, a staccato style, not for everyone. Rich like a painting, rich in things to see, a book that makes your imagination come alive. How can a book make you hear the wind and inhale the stillness of a land described therein?

Dust tells of Kenya through a family harbouring many secrets. Through Nyipir, the patriarch we see colonial Kenya and post-colonial Kenya. This is Kenya that killed Tom Mboya in 1969.

Through Odidi, the son, we see modern Kenya, choked by corruption, where truth-tellers become destitute, and wind up dead.

Akai Lokorijom, the matriarch, a femme fatale, a woman that addicts.

Arabel Ajany, the daughter, is in search of answers.

And Hugh Bolton, the mystery.

Dust paints Kenya as a country fluent in silence, the plot showing how this silence is taught through traumas inflicted on those who dared speak.

The story is set in 2007, and 2008, with the elections and the post-election violence of the period in the background. Setting: Nairobi and Northern Kenya.

Yvonne makes her characters mythical. Something about them and how she writes them accords them a grandeur.

She is a poet.