BOOK REVIEW: The Woman Called Angel and Other Stories

The short stories capture your attention with speed and move you with a well-calculated tempo, using the daily language yet in a beautiful synthesis and sync with current times.

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Front cover of The Woman Called Angel and Other Stories collection. It speaks about life with sufficient clarity, sweetness and relevance. PHOTO/Benvictor Makau, The Scholar Media Africa.
Front cover of The Woman Called Angel and Other Stories collection. It speaks about life with sufficient clarity, sweetness and relevance. PHOTO/Benvictor Makau, The Scholar Media Africa.

TITLE: The Woman Called Angel and Other Stories

GENRE: Short Stories

AUTHOR: Alfred N. Nyamwange

CONTACTS: nanganet@gmail.com

PRICE: KSh. 600

“The innocence of childhood is a deep-sea, unexplored, fantastic like one lost in a dark woodland.” This is the first drop from this deep spring of wisdom dug by Alfred Nyamwange, an acclaimed novelist, in this book.

In the character of Joel, an adolescent who the village at first calls Cissy, lust, corrupted thoughts, and experiences slowly push aside the innocence. 

Eight girls, led by Betty, Joel’s top enemy and coiner of the name Cissy, rescue him from an uncle-induced fight, take the unconscious him to the village’s ‘therapeutic temple’ and defile him. They all start ‘eating for two’ and the temple is defiled. Only human blood can propitiate the entire village.

The village accuses Joel and, quoting the priest, they can only escape death if all of them bear sons. Though two have already begotten sons, Joel’s Crystal Ball, from where the short story’s title emanates, can neither fathom his fate nor his security. 

It’s a dark room, a deep forest of thoughts and anxiety.

The author does not spare our emotions but continues, thrusting us to the sad reality of poverty and riches. In The Yellow Moon Valley, Tycoon pretends to secure the poor woman yonder and her son on a rainy night. 

For their stomachs, he sure brings them food but for his appetite, he violates the mother.

Though the boy is young, he can connect the dots, but the mother protests that though the boy hates Tycoon for taking away his father to work in his factory, they must eat.

“He gives us food,” is the mother’s response to Kasha, the little boy. It reminds us of how the rich take advantage of the poor by giving them materials and taking their innocence and integrity, shattering their dreams. Speaking to the African heart of the symbiotic tie-in between the colonizer and their colonies, where the colonized live in the mercies of their colonists until they decide, through hard work, to break out, branch out and grab independence. They refuse to bow to the ‘moon’ anymore and invent their own light.

Kasha would become wealthy, bringing hope and refreshment to her mother.

They are reflections of real-life experiences, tales, the author’s dreams and fantasies of the society.

Mr. Nyamwange uses words the way he wants, stepping above psychological taboos, soaring above common literary styles, and applying imagery and well-thought-out angles to tell you the story. 

He paints real-life situations through expressions full of laughter and cadence. Whether you love the epochs or loathe some, the stories will still carry you away and waggle your thoughts for the better.

The most rib-wracking of them all is the spirited search for The Chief’s Wife’s Wedding Garment, which sees the armed officers corner political leaders, thieves in context, making next-heist consultations at the Chief’s home.

It unveils dramatically, with the culprits getting undressed by the villagers and frog-marched for a casually-set marriage, all in the thick darkness. 

Mr. Alfred Nyamwange, the author of the short stories collection. He creatively employs idioms, imagery, flashback, tone and narrative hooks to have your mind engaged and rises beyond psychological taboos, telling his stories to native African minds with essence and timeliness. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Here, Sammy meets with his former wife, who the area em-P snatched from him after five years in wedlock, but repossessing her is a profound dilemma, risky yet almost necessary. The suspense leaves you aching for more.

The stories stretch over a 35-year-long epoch and catch up with the Covid-19 times on the way. Here, they touch on how the invisible enemy socially distanced lovers from each other; others threw caution to the wind and faced the risks head-on.

The setting of The Delicatessen speaks of how, just like Grace, an orphaned girl, meets the president and narrates her story, we should be quick to jump into opportunities and take every chance in life, which can change our lives forever and give us wings to fly to a fulfilling future.

Going for her, as uncle Tom would explain, “…they had to cross rivers, valleys, hills and forests until the sun that we have always known to rise from behind Mose’s blue-gum trees rose from Abaga’s clove of wattles….” He refers to their journey to get The Woman Called Angel, the mother of all stories in this collection.

Angel’s arrival immediately hypnotized the whole village and every eye relished looking at her.

Samson, his lofty-dreamed husband, would later get ‘lost’, but because an easy-to-believe rumor had swept over the villagers that he wanted to study abroad, nobody worried.

Bagaye, the main character and Sakaro’s savior, goes to deliver his father’s message to Angel, his aunt, only to have his ears catch the unheard-a plot to kill Sakaro, who’s already in the well nearby.

Bagaye is, beyond any doubt, convinced yet baffled that after Sam flew to add to his brains abroad, Angel has evolved into a murderer.

Victor and Musebe, the two domestics of Angel, are quarreling, leading to a fight. Angel snatches the opportunity to hide the planned death of Sakaro, by shooting dead the two servants, the only aware people, while wrestling.

Hold on! Before the fight, Bagaye manages to pull Sakaro, his young uncle and a Down’s Syndrome patient, outside the well. The two have to escape death from Angel, which turns out to be a big, hectic drama. 

Bagaye has to almost carry Sakaro through the dark forests, rainy night, and freezing river waters.

After a whole night of struggle, sleeping atop a tree and hiding from the marauding soldiers sent by the D.O. after Angel cried for help against “robbers” and the supportive, all-believing villagers showed up, the two young men reach Bagaye’s home. Tired. Weak. Sickly.

Before his parents, Bagaye cannot add one plus one and get the answer that Samson, for sure, went abroad because “What I witnessed yesterday convinced me that Angela is not the kind of person we have been thinking she is.”

The conversation is halted midway and father calls the D.O. to cease the pursuit, prompting the soldiers and Samson’s navy-blue car speed off to Bagaye’s compound. It’s all eerie. 

Bagaye’s dumbfounded. Peeping through the window, frenzied, he sees Angel and Sam snatching a sweet kiss.

The soldiers are still there, their role anonymous but….

What saddens me, just like it does to Bagaye, after all that toil and wearisome escape, is the question, “How come you don’t know I am directing the film, Bagaye?”

It has been a prank all through and hidden cameras fitted on Bagaye and Sakaro’s jackets have been recording the involuntarily-acted scenes! “Cut!”

The movie, ‘The Woman Called Angel’, “…became a blockbuster in this side of Africa and I was awarded as the best supporting actor.”

Scripted in covid-times yet its roots appearing from three-half decades past, it’s among the perfectly-dated collections you can ever come across in today’s age.

On with the reading, we find Joe, a Boomerang child, an insatiable soul seeking to murder his mother and grab more of the inheritance. It mirrors our current crooked society, a gluttonous generation in the making.

Karma also finds its way into the pages and Madam G, now a head-teacher but nursing miscarriages for treating Salome mischievously during childhood, only finds refuge in soul-searching after a well-thought-out flashback. For Madam G’s sake, Karma takes Standabu, a white-skinned, over-aged boy, to her school and stirs the peace of the learners and teachers alike.

A portion of the teachers seem to loathe him and even punish him for non-substantive accusations, but Madam G makes a U-turn and defends Standabu, Salome’s son gotten from a ‘holy mishap’ with the priest, Father Kampuni.

“That year Madam G gave birth to a bouncing baby son.”

From cover to cover, the stories suggest that the author’s dreams and personal experiences are an epic journey. 

Intertwined feelings of love and romance, punctuated with hatred and mockery; episodes of fear and courage, acceptance and rejection, ability and incapacity, all speak to the reader’s ears and soul in different intervals, making you weigh life’s events earnestly and wittingly.

But Achikicha’s story is a different kettle of fish altogether, exemplifying how during covid, girls, even some ‘without a face’, were lured by men old and young, poor and rich alike, and their soup sipped.

Chewing over her ‘figurelessness’, it remains a riddle how Achikicha grabbed Tycoon’s attention, but what we know so far is that when they were busted, Tycoon was forced to nurture her. Her body has since gained radiance, roundness and the worth to be looked at twice. 

Covid might have done her justice!

Mr. Nyamwange has also unleashed another book, The Girl of Red Beauty, a verse collection, speaking in the traditional aspects of Africans with wit and gusto. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Mr. Nyamwange has also unleashed another book, The Girl of Red Beauty, a verse collection published by Nsemia Publishers, embedding the traditional aspects of Africans with wit and gusto. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Readers keen enough would notice a thin streak of romance trailing throughout the collection, but not without petit spatters of craftiness, jealousy, fear and hatred. It’s the fulfillment of real human feelings, dotted with the unsaid yet back-stabbing opinions from the society.

So, chasing for love, I (author) met Sweet Banana. Like anybody else living in hope, we drew our map, making marriage our destination. On the way, though, rumors of my Sweet Banana whoring around began surfacing, but I was already drunk with love. 

Furthermore, some of my confidants were the messengers, and I felt jealousy was sending them to pepper our path.

One day, they destroyed Elder Mose’s house and I got into trouble, though I hadn’t been involved. Elder Mose was the main suspect in sipping my Sweet Banana’s soup, and my friends decided to punish him for me without my consent!

They fiercely battled Mose’s family that night. When we took Sweet Banana to the hospital after her suicidal attempt the next day, the truth surfaced and I realized Elder Mose was an innocent soul, betraying not his angelic sermons in our church.

He had been bequeathing her daughter, who had grown up in her aunt’s family and we all thought that was her mother, some property because her real mother was ailing and at death’s door. 

Whenever people saw Sweet Banana and Elder Mose in some lodgings yonder, their thoughts led them astray. No wonder I had refused to believe the chitchats.

Of interest is that my cheeky friends and I later restored Elder Mose’s destroyed house, and his family even visited my family, forgave us, and betrothed Regina (Sweet Banana) to our family for my marriage. From my conversation with my family prior to the visit, though, I doubt if they like her but isn’t she mine and, mine alone?

Retracing my Steps closes the book, expressing how we usually get lost in the vast “cities” of our lives. The story stresses the need to find one’s way out and retrace their steps.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: BOOK REVIEW: The Blood Stains

The Woman Called Angel and Other Stories is a seven-star collection of short stories. It’s the essence of life in a bundle and anyone seeking to catch a clear embodiment of life’s journey would find this collection inclusive, educating, thrilling, love-awakening, and rejuvenating to the soul. It’s a book your hands will appreciate holding, and your mind will not regret learning from.

About the Author

Alfred Nyagaka Nyamwange was born in Kisii County. He did his CPE exams from Mokorogoinwa primary school, KJSE from Kiomiti Secondary, O’ levels from Nyamagwa Mixed secondary school, A’ levels from Kisii High school before joining the University of Nairobi where he did a Bachelor’s in English, Political Science and Anthropology. Nyamwange did his Masters in English Literature in Education from Kampala University, Uganda. He is a teacher by profession and he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Literature with a bias on Popular Studies, Culture and Oral Poetry.

He promotes language, literature and culture-related aspects as depicted in his works. These include the novels, The Blood Stains (The Writers’ Pen, 2020) and The Broken Column (Elongo, 2020); an anthology of short stories, The Woman Called Angel (African Ink Publishers, 2020); a children’s story, The Smell Of New Shoes (The Writers’ Pen, 2020) and The Girl of Red Beauty (Nsemia, 2022). He has also contributed to various poetry anthologies such as Kistretch 7th and 8th Editions, Shackles Of Pain, I Can’t Breathe, Musings During a Time of Pandemic, The Precious Core, Black Rootedness, including chapters and articles in celebrated books and journals. Nyamwange is a member of national and international forums, including English literature teachers fora; Poetry Associations such as Kistretch, East Africa and East Oakland chapter, and Kenyan writers such as Writers Association of Kenya.

For your copies, contact him at nanganet@gmail.com or P.O. Box 266-40202, Keroka.

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Mr. Makau studied B.A. Linguistics, Media & Communication at Moi University, Kenya. He is a Columnist and Editor with a keen interest in Education, Health, Climate Change, and Environment. His contact: b.makau@scholarmedia.africa.

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