Author: Alfred Nyagaka Nyamwange
Publisher: The Writers Pen (November 2020)
Price: Ksh. 800
Reviewer: Benvictor Makau
A mother’s horrifying dream opens the pages of “The Blood Stains” novel. She hears screams from her dying baby, writhing in excruciating pain.
She wakes up, only to realise it was a dream and the screams were actually hers.
Emotions and deep pain from past memories snatch her sleep for good. She starts thinking of Nixon, her husband.
Enraged, for an unknown reason as at now, had rained blows on her, hurting her severely.
She’s now in hospital, surrounded by family members; Maina her “father”, Saarange her grandmother, Vega her firstborn and other kids, relatives and friends.
Jemima, a police officer, Peter, their farm-hand and journalists are also present, thirsty for latest updates. She’s a woman of the people, seemingly.
Luciana, the family’s mother, is absent.
In a wonderful flashback, Nyamwange, the novel’s author, walks us through the woman’s life from infancy to school life and childhood games and fights with siblings, all through to marriage.
It’s a journey of love and hatred, laughter and tears, romance and blood stains, success and failure, all interwoven neatly into the captivating story.
She explains how Maina, an adept businessman, now advanced in years, had built them a castle, which had turned problematic in cleaning, a house of chaos to live in.
The stern father would regularly insult and beat them up as his children, their mother Luciana included.
The ship starts sinking when Maina marries Hortenzia, a slim, dark girl, as second wife. Luciana (Lucia) gets dethroned and while trying to salvage her marriage, temporarily loses it. Hortenzia becomes their harsh boss, beating up Nerina and siblings badly.
Alice and Jelita, Nerina’s elder sisters unyoke themselves and rebel against Hortenzia, battering her and fleeing to their mother’s place.
Maina, instead of responding with fight as usual, goes for Luciana and the two daughters. She’s been away for seven months now.
It’s entirely dramatic!
Hilariously, the flashback shoves the reader into a mood of ecstasy and then into melancholy, all in turns.
Neither Nerina’s mother nor Nyakerario, the circumciser, ever prepared her for the pains of her future life. The cut became a constant scar, robbing her of her femininity and sacredness of womanhood.
In one of the family fights, Maina breaks Nerina’s hand and it’s bandaged for four months. Her ‘mother’ also nurses a broken bone.
It’s the start of the long, painful trail of blood-stained life.
Later, Luciana mysteriously disappears, leaving the children in the hands of Maina, their father and Hortenzia, their harsh step-mother.
The disappearance brings Nerina an overnightly-earned affection from Maina.
He occasionally gifts her expensively over her siblings, which she, though doubtingly, mistakens for father’s love filling the gap left by Luciana.
In a covert scheme, Maina takes Nerina for a long journey to Kotu, to purchase building materials for Hortenzia’s house.
At evening, while still at Kotu, Maina refuses to travel at night, booking two lodging rooms.
Here, drunkenly, he reveals to Nerina (Nerry, as Maina calls her), the bad news that “…, we picked you from a dustbin.”
In his surreptitiously loving arms, Maina defiles Nerry, her “queen” daughter. Her blood stains the torn dress and floor, but even more, her mind.
Turning wild from pain, encapsulated in heartbreak and wading in confusion, she sets out to throw herself before the speeding cars and be crushed. Irene and her mother, fellow church members, rescue and host her for sometime.
After some unyielding visits by different family members and authorities, Saarange, her grandmother shows up and confirms that she is Nerry’s real adopter. Maina and Luciana were her keepers.
She’s Saarange’s Nyabisio- fortune child.
Nerry rejoins the family and resumes academics. Saarange has already moved Maina and Hortenzia far away from the village.
Maina is however committed to pay all school fees and act father.
The siblings make it to campus and famous institutions, Nerry joining Prestige High School.
Catherine, Nerry’s old friend and classmate since primary school, now trained in karate, rescues her from bullies, becoming her high school confidante.
They share similar tears of blood stains. Catherine got defiled by Mr. Mobisa while in primary school.
Misguided by Catherine, now morally decayed lover of Jomo, she loves Felix, both students in a nearby school.
Occasionally, the love escapades would go sour and they would get captured and are badly punished.
Nerina escapes being raped by Felix on their way home for holidays at night, only to fall into the hands of chokoras (street boys), who mercilessly rape her, almost tearing her apart.
Nixon, a volleyball fan and student ahead of Nerry elsewhere, is her dormant lover, a crush for now.
Meanwhile, Irene is nursing pregnancy by Jeffrey, Nerry’s brother.
Undoubtedly, the village’s young are now burning with unabated romance.
Nyamwange clearly shows us how girls publicly bear the mark of incorrigible love triangles when the boys are still out there, freely hurting more souls!
In one dark day, Nerry escapes rape by Rodgers her cousin, nicknamed “Small Satan” by Saarange, their grandmother.
Peter, the farm-hand, shows up in the pretext of rescuing though as planned, supposed to be the “next patient”. She escapes the ordeal, too.
Only four months to final national examination, Catherine reveals her pregnancy to Nerry.
With numerous lovers, she can’t figure out the owner!
She mysteriously goes missing, only to be found days later, dying from the pains of abortion. It’s the same room Felix wanted to rape Nerry, at Modest town.
Success takes Nerry to Mvita University for a degree in Environmental Health, only to meet Small Satan, who works there. History risks repeating itself!
Other family members are now married, working in the city and abroad, living happy lives.
Costa, Nerry’s rich sister-in-law is her encourager.
With Rita her roommate, sinking into coastal campus life, Nerry loves Bradley, an old mzungu while Rita goes for Rodgers. The two conscript Nerry and Rita into selling female clothing and cosmetics, stabilizing their financial life.
A drugs syndicate involves them all, brewing a destructive strike from Mvita comrades for news in the Daily Star newspaper tagging the university as drugs major market.
Bradley is arrested.
While marauding at night escaping the police officers confronting the students, they’re kidnapped by thugs, only to find Rodgers captured, tortured and dying.
In a police pursuit, Jemima bravely rescues the girls.
She is the ‘tough’ wife of Mvita University President, Prof. Matesi.
In hospital, family members present, Nixon, the cold lover who has been visiting Nerry at Mvita, proposes and Nerry says “Yes”.
Before graduation, they wed in a full-house event.
Nixon’s flight abroad for further studies leaves Nerry at hyena’s hands.
The family badmouths her for a whore, poisoning Nixon’s mind against her.
Coming back later, now a university don, he blindly listens to his mother, attacks Nerry and maims her and vanishes into the thick darkness.
Hurt, broken, crippled, she’s visited by her family (Maina’s) and Jemima, now a close friend.
A heated confrontation between Jemima and Maina unearths Nerry’s mysterious roots —Jemima as her biological mother and Maina, the biological father who “ate” outside wedlock.
Cop Jemima, in her visits to Maina’s home, now a deserted castle, discovers Luciana’s body buried in a pit, covered with bricks in a heap nearby.
Mongina killed her for money and Peter helped in the burial and both orchestrated their mistress’s escape.
Meanwhile, Nerry’s house has been under construction under the eyes of her paternal family, since Nixon’s in hideouts from police.
During her birthday, she’s merrily wheelchaired into the house.
Thinking all is settled, Nixon steals back into the family.
Vega, Nerry’s firstborn, quickly rings Jemima her grandmother for the police to come pick Nixon, the ‘stray donkey’.
In a charming agog, Nyamwange leaves the reader suspended, with Jemima promising to catch a flight and come for Nerry her daughter and Vega, Gym and Omare, the grand-children.
It’s an all-age novel, one you’ll enjoy reading in one sitting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alfred Nyagaka Nyamwange was born in Kisii County. He studied at Mokorogoinwa Primary School, Kiomiti and Nyamagwa Mixed Secondary Schools, Kisii High School before joining the University of Nairobi (UoN). He is a teacher by profession and he is currently pursuing a PhD in Literature. He promotes language, literature and culture-related aspects as depicted in his works. These include the novels, The Blood Stains, The Broken Column, an anthology of short stories, The Woman Called Angel and the children’s story, The Smell Of New Shoes. He has also contributed to various poetry anthologies such as Kistretch 7th Edition, Shackles Of Pain, I Can’t Breathe, The Precious Core, including chapters and articles to celebrated books and journals. He has an anthology of poems and another long poem in the process of being published.
The author can be reached by email, email@example.com Or +254711555745/+254733572335. PO Box 266-40202, Keroka.
His other works quietly incubating include a collection of Gusii narratives, two novels, several short stories, two literary projects, drama works, a children’s story and a religious book. His works offer a voice to the marginalized and passive sectors of the society… whereby he represents their case (s) in the literary arena.
An anthology of poems and another long poem are in the process of being published. One can read some of his works in the personal blog site thysysnanga.com
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