Indian poet and writer Avijeet Das once said, “Something magical happens when two soulful people meet…” and nothing best epitomises the maxim than Woman Beneath Her Feet and Other Stories.
The book is an anthology of captivating short stories by 13 different Kenyan authors who have flexed their creative ingenuity to put together a fascinating read.
The fictional narratives explore a cocktail of interesting storylines ranging from love to loss and grief, family life, and sex, among other thought-provoking subplots.
The book opens with ‘Flightless Birds’ by Nyakoni Ida Kemunto, which revolves around love and family life, setting the tone for the entire anthology.
Well-written and meticulously woven, the storyline centres on Cleopatra and Caleb as the author manages to present an engrossing narration full of nostalgia.
Employing vivid descriptions and flashbacks as well as infusing Kiswahili language into the narration, the writer is able to paint a picture to the reader in a manner that makes them live through the story.
The two main characters reminisce about their past love life on what could have been in an emotional spell during the burial of Cleo’s father.
The erstwhile lovers had been apart for nine years after life sent them on different paths in pursuit of their futures.
Other than love, the story also delves into realities of single parenthood, loss and grief in an engrossing manner that leaves one awe-struck till the end.
The love theme spills over to the second story of the anthology in the form of ‘Shape of a Storm’ by Noah Roy.
Roy presents complexities of love intertwined with racial realities as Loloi is torn between Verdy, a granddaughter of a colonial master, and Rebecca, his childhood friend.
The indecision causes a storm as the two women fight for Loloi’s love. In the end, Rebecca eventually manages to win the fight, although using underhand tactics.
‘Woman Beneath Her Feet’, a story by Belinda Amondi Ochieng, which is the title of the book, explores work-life balance as Teddy and Seline differ on how they want their family to be.
While Seline wants a third child, Teddy is opposed to the idea as he wants the focus to shift to other priorities.
When the centre could not hold, Teddy leaves only to be reunited with his wife during the burial of their neighbour, Ma’Lamie, when the third child, Esmeralda, has already been born.
The author also manages to bring to the fore the devastating pain and losses occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic with the hurried final rites of Ma’Lamie a representation of life during the presence of the pandemic.
‘Sealed’ by Rehema Zuberi also explores life during the pandemic as it also touches on love, broken marriages, children out of wedlock and other family betrayals.
‘Reminisces’ by Aoko Juma is a sad tale about abusive marriages that are founded on money, driven by greedy parents, rather than love.
Leocadia is married off to Johanna by her parents and not to the love of her life, Erastus. In the marriage, she is both physically and mentally abused with the physical and mental scars finally driving her to her grave.
Aoko chooses epistles to narrate her story, giving the reader a full glimpse of forlorn lives of the one-time lovers through the letters they exchange. The two are unhappy in their respective marriages.
With love as the dominant storyline in the 237-page book, ‘Professional entanglement’ by Irene Mugua delves into this theme but with a twist.
Mizizi, a corporate chief executive, manages to find love in a nurse-turned-call girl after years of short flings occasioned by a traumatic childhood experience he saw his late mother go through and eventually being murdered by her lover.
Deneyo’s sensual seduction manages to soothe that cold heart, turning Mizizi around and away from his illicit sexcapades.
Current generational realities are also explored through ‘The anatomy of a simp’ by Ongoma Sakwah.
The chronicle lays bare the current ‘sponsor’ craze, where young university girls get into relationships with endowed older men just for the money. Manyasi and Amondi represent the two.
‘Disintegration’ by Beryl Karimi does not veer far off from the dominant thematic scope as her narration is littered with love-gone-sour tales.
From Wamuyu and Jamal to George and Clara. Each is looking for true love but what presents itself is broken love. No steady love as one-night stands and flings become the order of the day. Disintegration at its best.
‘Beginning of the end’ by Ian Ingara breaks from the crowd by looking into the never-ending problem of terrorism and how the youth are recruited into the act.
Timothy Maleme is one such youth who is conscripted into a terror group to execute an attack at his place of work. The attack goes wrong as his mother is caught up in the melee.
The book is filled with other stories which present an interesting read. It goes for Sh1,200 and is available at Nuria Bookstores.