These are chapter analyses of the text.
CHAPTER ONE – Journey to Nasila
In Nakuru town, Ole Kaelo, the former Commercial Manager of Agribix, has been retrenched and his family is preparing to leave the house in which they have lived for most of their lives. His two girls – Taiyo and Resian – are apprehensive and sceptical about moving to their new rural home in Nasila. Their belongings are carried in two lorries, while the family travels in a hired 14-seater matatu. On the way, one of the lorries breaks down and they have to stop for a while. They arrive in Nasila and are hosted by Ole Kaelo’s younger brother, Simiren and his four wives and sixteen children.
- When we are first introduced to Ole Kaelo, we immediately realize how he leads by instilling fear in others. His two daughters are afraid of his hot-temper and savage tongue while his wife never dares to question him.
- From this chapter, it is also evident that none of the characters is particularly excited about going back to Nasila. This situation has been forced on them by Ole Kaelo’s retrenchment. However, we must admire Ole Kaelo’s resilience and positive attitude when he says that his retrenchment was inevitable at some point and he was not going to feel sorry for himself.
- We also get the first hint of a possible stormy relationship between Ole Kaelo and his daughters when we learn that he has refused to allow them to join Egerton University even though they are qualified and that he refused to allow Taiyo to attend a radio interview about her music talent.
- It is also sad to note that the only reason why Ole Kaelo hates his daughter Resian is because she was not born a boy as he had hoped. This clearly demonstrates Ole Kaelo’s and by extension, his community’s attitude towards boys. Sons are seen as the only avenue to continue and cement a family’s legacy.
- The lorry that breaks down on their way to Nasila is symbolic of the many obstacles that stand in the way of the family as it seeks to assimilate itself in the new culture.
- Simiren knows that reintegrating into the community is not as easy as Ole Kaelo thinks. He’s concerned about how the people will treat Taiyo and Resian considering their “uncircumcised” states.
CHAPTER TWO – A New Home
The next day, Taiyo and Resian wake up to the serenity and tranquillity of the countryside which sharply contrasts with the noisy atmosphere back in Nakuru. They are invited to take breakfast in the house of Yeiyoo Botorr, Simiren’s first wife, who introduces them to her co-wives and their sixteen children. After breakfast, the two girls decide to take a walk to survey their new neighbourhood. On their way back, they are accosted by a young man who roughs them up, threatens them and promises to return. The girls are shaken but decide not to tell their parents about their ordeal. Ole Kaelo decides to pay his old friend and mentor, Ole Sepuyo, a visit and reveals to him, his business deals with Oloisudori. Ole Sepuyo warns him about dealing with Oloisudori who is corrupt, immoral and a known thug. In the afternoon, the family moves into their new house which is only a kilometre away from Simiren’s.
- The contrast between the noisy urban environment that the girls were used to and the quiet ambience presented by their new surroundings is a mere veil to the turbulent affairs in Nasila.
- We get to understand the different philosophies and attitudes that the two girls hold towards the family as an institution. While Taiyo thinks getting married and bearing as many children as one wants is important, Resian believes that education is more important and family should come later.
- Taiyo and Resian do not want to be viewed as weak members of society yet they are vulnerable as is evidenced by the attack from a stranger. Their decision not to tell their parents of the incident may later come to haunt them.
- Through Simiren’s family, we are given a sneak view of the polygamous family setup in the Maa culture and the value attached to wives and children.
- Ole Sepuyo represents an attempt at balancing between upholding the strict dictates of traditional culture and embracing modernity. While he believes in female circumcision, the also takes his sons to school to enjoy formal education.
- Women circumcision is compared to dehorning cattle. The men try to justify the practice by claiming that it is for their (cattle’s/women’s) own good. According to Ole Sepuyo, it is necessary to tame and “to reduce accidental injuries to each other”.
- We see the theme of ‘change’, positively, when Ole Kaelo notices that the landscape that was once dotted with manyattas was now coloured with iron sheets. Negatively, though, the trees have been cut down in favour of barley and wheat.
- Ole Kaelo is superstitious when he feels that revealing his deal with Oloisudori to Ole Sepuyo would lead to bad luck. He also comes out as corrupt when he feels that living a righteous life will get him nowhere, economically. He is so materialistic and stubborn that the warnings he gets from Ole Sepuyo about Oloisudori, fall on deaf ears.
- The writer uses a lot of foreboding in this chapter. He gives the reader a hint of the impending danger ahead through Ole Sepuyo’s warnings and through the stranger’s attack on the girls.
CHAPTER 3 – A New Culture
Ole Kaelo ushers his family into the newly constructed house. The Kaelo’s are elated by the new house. In a flashback, Mama Milanoi remembers how she was married by Ole Kaelo while she was eighteen and he was twenty-four years old. The couple had enjoyed peace generally since then but since she does not have a son, Mama Milanoi feels she has failed her husband. In a dialogue, we learn that Taiyo and Resian are afraid of undergoing F.G.M and wish to go back to Nakuru and join university. In a dramatic irony, we realize that Ole Kaelo had been hard and cruel to Resian for he expected a son to be born in her place. Although Taiyo does not understand the cause of the hatred, she always defended her sister devotedly even when her mother did not offer any protection.
CHAPTER 4 – The Homecoming Ceremony
Ole Kaelo holds a big celebration party as way welcoming him back to the Nasila community. Members from the five Maa clans: Ilmolelian, Ilmakesen, Ilukumae, Ilaiser and illtarosero are invited. The Kaelo’s belong to the Ilmolelian clan. The Ole Kaelo’s are very actively involved in the preparation of the homecoming ceremony. During the dances, Taiyo is attracted to, a young primary school music teacher, Joseph Parmuat but they belong to the same clan and forging any intimate relationship is an abomination. A carnival mood is witnessed during the party for the generous Kaelo, has offered plenty of foodstuffs.
In the dance Taiyo’s talent is brought forth for she is really attracted to the song and dance. We learn that she has always done well in music festivals too. Unfortunately, her father denied her a chance to go for a music extravaganza in Mombasa which would have developed her talent. Lastly, a village elder called Musanka leads in the blessing section. He calls upon the community to welcome the Kaelo’s back home. Kaelo is advised to involve himself in the community affairs and Nasila. He is also advised to take care of his family and children.
CHAPTER 5 – Sleepless Nights
Taiyo and Resian are distressed. Resian feels Taiyo is taking too long before broaching the issue of their university studies with their father. The issue of FGM makes the two girls have a sleepless night. Taiyo is also disturbed by the cultural law that does not allow her relationship with Joseph Parmuat, the primary school teacher and a music enthusiast. The two girls cry a lot that night. The day before, Joseph had promised to visit her and also coach her in traditional music. The thought of enkamuratani (circumciser) and Olmurunya (circumcising blade) makes Taiyo shudder with dread. In Resian’s mind it is clear that enkamuratani and her Olmurunya cannot have their way with her, maybe over her dead body.
Contrastingly Kaelo and his wife enjoy a great night after the day of the great party and blessings. They feel fulfilled for the great achievement, getting welcomed as well as being blessed. In her morning thoughts, Mama Milanoi is at a dilemma, whether to force the girls to undergo the ritual and lose their faith, love and confidence or refuse to yield to the traditions and become a pariah in the Ilmolelian clan. Kaelo authoritatively states his demands; mama Milanoi is to counsel her daughters in preparations for circumcision while he is to ask Parmuat to teach the girls about the Nasila tradition and later enkamuratani to be called to do her part. Mama Milanoi interrogatively reflects on her stand and that of her family. She feels her husband is turning into a deep Nasilian very fast. Afterwards, the Kaelo’s visit their agricultural shop. On arriving home, the three females welcome Joseph Parmuat delightfully. As the chapter ends, a second male visitor visits the Kaelo’s.
CHAPTER 6 – Olarinkoi
Ole Kaelo introduces Joseph Parmuat as a brother to the girls. Despite the warning, Taiyo is still infatuated with Joseph and decides to make him a confidante. Resian is critical and dismissive of her father’s pompous speech and generally how females are viewed by men. In a defiant mood, Resian expresses her mind on the subject of unfair men towards women. Surprisingly and daringly, she portrays the defiance to her aunt, mother and Resian.
The listeners are deeply embarrassed. Aunt Botorr says Resian has a bad spirit that can only be treated through circumcision. Taiyo’s questions who Olarinkoi is and is answered by Joseph by telling a legendary story. Ilarinkon is a legend who was a great fighter who saved the Maa community from being wiped out by an adversary while their morans had gone for a raid. Ilarinkon warriors abused women until one day women discovered how to deal with the problem. Their collective resolution ironically gave birth to enkamuratani who was handed over an Olmurunya. Hence the birth of FGM and therefore according to Joseph, only women can stop the barbaric FGM.
CHAPTER 7 – Oloisudori’s First Visit
Resian is in an optimistic mood that all will be well especially about their university education. After Taiyo leaves for the shop, Mama Milanoi broaches the subject of FGM. Even though Mama Milanoi supports FGM, Resian is categorical that it has been used by men as a tool of oppression to women. One Edward Oloisudori visits Kaelo’s home. Resian is uncomfortable with him for he is immoral. Her mother scorns her for talking ill about him. Her father returns and due to Resian’s nervousness, he calls her names. Kaelo clearly states that all members of Kaelo family must respect Oloisudori and that he should not be denied anything. Resian learns that her father did not give in to the request about joining university.
Joseph reveals that Oloisudori is a shadowy figure; a Jack -of-all-trades. He is also, a poacher, smuggler, robber, extortionist and a hired assassin. He had survived numerous jail terms and was now incorrigible. Due to the revelation, the girls fear for their father. When Oloisudori leaves, the countenance of Kaelo and Mama Milanoi changes; they are absent-minded and aloof even though Kaelo insists that everything is in control. Mama Milanoi even burns rice without realizing it.
Later, when Taiyo and Resian are unpacking their boxes, they talk about the possibility of forced circumcision. Taiyo vows to protect herself and her sister from the practice.
Soon, the girls get used to the serenity of their new surroundings. They learn to welcome and serve visitors to their home even in the early hours of the morning. While some visitors come to make acquaintances with the family, others want to spy on the girls’ suitability for marriage. Later, the girls are informed that their father is planning for a homecoming ceremony.
CHAPTER 8: The Marriage Dilemma
Oloisudori’s cruel demand, to marry Resian and organize the marriage of Taiyo gives Kaelo and Mama Milanoi a sleepless night. Although Kaelo knew Oloisudori’s past criminal record, he still falls into his trap due to greed for wealth. Oloisudori’s initial plan was to extort money from Kaelo but on noticing his two beautiful daughters he changed his mind.
Mama Milanoi suffers great pain and cries for the olden days when demands such as those of Oloisudori would be dealt with accordingly. Mama Milanoi recalls through flashback how women had invoked mass action on men in the past by depriving men food, milk and beating them up while naked. She contrasts those times with the current times when Nasila’s culture is polluted. She fears that Oloisudori may kill her daughter. Despite the hard times the Kaelo’s are experiencing, the following morning, the members manage to afford smiles as they take tea. Even the entrance of Olarinkoi does not dampen the high spirits embraced by the Kaelo’s.
CHAPTER 9: Forbidden Love
Joseph Parmuat begins a routine practice of coaching Taiyo and Resian on traditional songs and dances and the trio enjoy it immensely. Joseph explains different types of loves to the two girls; elangatare and patureishi. Resian boldly asks Joseph to be her patureishi but he explains how it is impossible for that to happen due to Nasila cultural norms. Taiyo and Resian question the rigidity of Nasila culture and traditions. They question some negative practices like F.G.M Joseph clarifies that culture had dropped some negative practices like throwing the dead and the dying to the hyenas, abandoning very old and ill in deserted homesteads.
In a flashback, Taiyo accounts for her love to Joseph. It began on the day their father organized a homecoming celebration and since then she has even visited Joseph in his house. Joseph also feels strong love to her but traditions shields him from her. They think of falling in love and leaving for a far destination. Taiyo is ready but Joseph is prefers to abide by Nasila culture.
CHAPTER 10: Olarinkoi the Savior
A cloud of apprehension hangs around the couple. Oloisudori does not turn up as he had promised earlier. After procrastinating for some time they find it unbearable. Mother and father leave their home so as to consult their friends; the wife to Simiren and Ole Kaelo to Supeyo, on the issue touching on Oloisudori’s callous demand to marry one of their daughters. The two girls go to the shop to have their lunch prepared by the manager, Maiso. On their return journey, they are attacked by two rude young men. On observing the two men, they realize one of the accosters was responsible for the earlier ambush. The two young men are frightening for they are in possession of knobkerries. They attempt to rape them but luckily, the girls are rescued by Olarinkoi.
CHAPTER 11: Staying with the Simirens
Ole Kaelo is very agitated on hearing that his daughters were assaulted with the aim of being raped. Their father storms out of the house while their mother asks them to go to Simiren’s house to have a change of environment.
The girls are heartily welcomed at their uncle’s home and that enables them to settle very fast. They get used to the communal and polygamous running of affairs at their uncle’s home. They learn very many aspects of Nasila culture, both negative and positive. They are told more about Minik ene Nkoitoi, the Emakererei and their role model by one of Simiren’s wives. They are told that she went to Makerere University where she studied veterinary medicine. They admire her opposition of negative Nasila culture and say they would like to be like her. Later, they are asked to return home by their parents. A party, which their parents also attend, is held for them after which they return home.
CHAPTER 12: Sweet Revenge
Ole Kaelo hits the road angry and bitter and complaining to all he meets about the beastly attack on his daughter. He goes to the school where Joseph teaches and explains the events heading to his anger. Joseph parades all pupils, and sends boys from the Ilmolelian clan to go and call their elder brothers and fathers to an urgent meeting at Oerata plain.
The search party narrows down on Lante son of Kanyira of Ilukumae clan and Ntara son of Muyo, also of Ilukumae clan as the culprits. They decide to embark on a revenge mission to prevent further provocation from the Illukumae clan. The search party comes across the two culprits who ran and fall under the feet of two old men begging for mercy. According to Nasila culture, a man is spared of any crime if he hides his head between the legs of an old man. Nevertheless, they are clobbered, slapped and kicked by Kaelo and his men. It is realized after interrogation that one of the offenders was related to Taiyo and Resian for he was son of Mama Milanoi’s sisters. A cleansing ceremony is planned and Ole Kaelo is compensated for the trauma he underwent. Ntara Muyo gives Taiyo and Resian each a heifer to remove the shame he caused them. Lante pays two heifers.
CHAPTER 13: Oloisudori’s Grand Visit
Oloisudori changes his plans of coming for Resian in two weeks’ time and declares he would do so the following day. He would be accompanied by his three friends and wants Resian to cook for them. Ole Kaelo asks Resian to remain at home and cook for them instead of going to help plaster the kitchen of Teiyo Kiti with Taiyo as they had planned. She is not comfortable with the idea saying she fears Oloisudori and that he is like a monster. Her father hears none of her protestation. Finally, Resian agrees to cook for the visitors after Taiyo is allowed to do it with her.
Oloisudori arrives in a procession of four-wheel drive vehicles. He is immaculately dressed and so is his three friends. Taiyo starts sensing that he could be targeting her sister Resian. He gives each of the family member’s generous gifts including a briefcase to their father. Later after the guests leave, Ole Kaelo calls Resian and tells her about getting married to Oloisudori. She angrily rejects his suggestion.
CHAPTER 14: The Wealthy Oloisudori
Ole Kaelo and his wife visit one of Oloisudori’s homes in Naivasha. He intends to build a palatial home that Resian would not turn down. Oloisudori is even ready to enroll her as a parallel student at Egerton if she marries him. However, she must undergo circumcision before he can marry her. Ole Kaelo and Mama Milanoi are greatly impressed by Oloisudori’s wealth.
Before leaving, the three hatch a plan of abducting Resian if she offers resistance and are very happy about it. His wife is not very happy about the idea but has no option. She is unhappy that her daughter would miss a chance of going to Egerton University. Later, after a disturbed night, he has a dream in which Resian accepts to marry Oloisudori without any resistance and that raises husband and wife’s spirits.
Resian and Taiyo hatch a plan of returning all gifts Oloisudori had given them in his next visit to show him they were not on sale. Resian receives Oloisudori warmly into their home and hands over the carton she and Taiyo had packed all his gifts. Oloisudori is happy and reveals his plans to marry her. Resian is shocked by the revelation. An argument ensues and Resian storms out of the house and confronts her father in his shop at Nasila. Ole Kaelo confirms his intention to marry her off to Oloisudori and says he has no intention of enrolling her to university. She has a nasty verbal exchange after which he slaps her twice. Their bitter exchange attracts a crowd outside the shop. Resian leaves in hurry and heads to the river where she contemplates committing suicide. Just then, Olarinkoi comes to what seems to be her rescue. She tells her that Oloisudori men are looking for her all over and that he can help her reach Minik’s ranch. Resian agrees to the idea and they plan to start off very early the following day.
CHAPTER 15: The Real Olarinkoi
Resian and Olarinkoi start their journey to Minik’s ranch on a pickup. The old woman gives Resian a leso and a blanket to cover herself with. The pickup drives up to Olarinkoi’s mud-plastered house and Resian is told to go in and prepare supper while Olarinkoi leaves her. Resian falls asleep and dreams about meeting Minik who promises to enroll her at Egerton University and protect her from FGM. Her dream is interrupted when Olarinkoi returns and reprimands her for not cooking food and tells her that she is his wife. Olarinkoi tries to take her by force but Resian bites his thumb and in defense, he hits her on the ribcage making her pass out.
When Resian regains consciousness, she notices another woman in the room. The woman is called Nabaru and is the nurse that has been treating her. One evening after she is able to walk on her feet, Olarinkoi’s mother comes and admonishes her for biting her son’s thumb and abuses her for being uncircumcised. She reveals that she intends to have her circumcised after recovering and that she and Olarinkoi would go to Tanzania to start their marriage. The nurse later tells her that Olarinkoi’s mother is an enkoiboni, a prophet. Nabaru also promises to help Resian find her way to Minik’s ranch.
CHAPTER 16: Escape from Olarinkoi
Nabaru informs Resian that Enkoiboni plans to have her initiated as soon as she recovers. When her health improves a bit, Resian befriends two young women who were married early. Olarinkoi comes back several days later and tries to ask for forgiveness from Resian. He discloses that they plan to have her circumcised in two days’ time so that he can marry her. After the revelation, Resian realizes that her only hope is in Nabaru. She waits for her eagerly but does not come that evening. She has a dream in which she fights the enkamuratani who wants to circumcise her, enkoiboni and when she is about to attack Nabaru, her dream is cut short by somebody calling out her name. Resian collapses as soon as she opens the door to let Nabaru in. When she regains consciousness, the two women escape from the advancing enkoiboni, Olarinkoi and the enkamuratani. The two women escape on the back of a lorry just as Olarinkoi approaches. Finally, the reach Minik’s ranch where they are received by Minik and her staff.
CHAPTER 17: Resian Meets Minik
Minik welcomes Nabaru and Resian into her glamorous and elegant house. After bathing, she tells Minik the events leading to her present state. She discloses she has always admired Minik, wanted to meet her and wanted to study veterinary medicine which Minik herself did at Makerere University. She also tells her that she would like to join her in the fight against FGM.
Minik observes that some cultural practices like F.G.M and emuata had outlived their usefulness and should cease being part of Maa’s culture. Nabaru promises to join Minik in fighting the practice Minik also promises to have Taiyo and Resian enrolled at Egerton University, their lifelong dream. She also promises Resian a scholarship and gives her a fully furnished house and a job in the ranch for the duration she would be studying at the university.
CHAPTER 18: Sisters’ Reunion
On her fifth day in the ranch one mid-morning, Resian is called by Minik and informed that her workers had rescued who had been forcefully circumcised. She is informed that the girl is her sister Taiyo. She is also told that Joseph Parmuat was killed for helping Taiyo escape. Taiyo narrates how she was lured by her mother to accompany three women who were to take her to Resian. When they got to Esoit village she was abandoned in a smoky hut and in the morning was forcefully circumcised. Resian goes to her room and the sisters hug and kiss passionately.
When Taiyo fully recovers, she is advised to accept what has happened to her and move on. She is also advised to ensure in future her children do not go through a similar experience. The three ladies agree that if they stand by their position the primitive culture would end.
CHAPTER 19: Dreams Fulfilled
Minik calls for Taiyo and Resian later in August that year. She discloses that the contents of the two envelopes she has are about their admission in Egerton University. The girls are elated by the news. Minik organizes a farewell party for the girls. She invites many workers and girls to come and celebrate with the girls. As they sing, Oloisudori comes in a convoy of vehicles to demand to be given either Resian or Taiyo arguing that he has already paid enough to have them both. Minik tells him to leave the place for he would have none of the girls.
Oloisudori starts insulting Minik and orders his men to take Resian by force and a vicious fight ensues between the ranch’s workers and Oloisudori’s men. Oloisudori’s convoy is burnt to the ground and he and his men ran for their lives after a thorough clobbering. The following day, Resian and Taiyo are leave for Egerton University, their Nirvana.