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Ndirangu Githaiga

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TEN THOUSAND ROCKS Cover
BOOK REVIEW

TEN THOUSAND ROCKS

BY Ndirangu Githaiga • POSTED ON May 28, 2021

A secretly married couple’s lives are altered after a horrific road traffic accident in Githaiga’s novel.

William Henry Young and Laura Sullivan went to middle school together; they lost touch after attending college but are reunited in a chance meeting in a grocery store in Richmond, Virginia. Will, a Black physician, and Laura, a White teacher, later marry but choose not to tell Will’s parents due to their disapproval of him dating a White girl. One day, Will announces that he intends to quit his practice and begin working as a medical director of an insurance company in Virginia Beach. After they move, their relationship becomes fraught as Laura grows eager to announce their marriage after keeping it a secret for almost 10 years. Will, in a fit of temper, buys a Porsche and is involved in a car accident that leaves him comatose and paralyzed. After he awakens, his bitterness leads him to request a divorce, but the story takes a number of unexpected turns as his rehabilitation progresses. Githaiga, a practicing physician, is a shrewd writer who contrasts the sterility of the medical world with the messiness of human emotion. He astutely examines traumatic injury from the perspectives of the patient, other family members, medical staff, and even an insurance company. The author achieves this by building a credible network of minor characters, such as Keturah, Will’s nurse, who conveys telling information about Will’s dad: “His father seemed resolute and unemotional. She found him polite to a fault, but noticed he had difficulty with small talk.” This attention to detail is also discernable in Githaiga’s sometimes overly elaborate descriptive style, as when Laura attempts to swat a fly: “It masterfully eluded her and made a quick loop around, only to retreat again as her hand swung back reflexively.” Overall, the author invites the reader into a meticulously crafted world that makes Will and Laura’s triumphs and setbacks feel tangible.

An intricately constructed tale with observant prose.

Pub Date: May 28, 2021

Page count: 160pp

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2021

THE PEOPLE OF OSTRICH MOUNTAIN Cover
BOOK REVIEW

THE PEOPLE OF OSTRICH MOUNTAIN

BY Ndirangu Githaiga • POSTED ON May 14, 2020

In this novel, Kenya is the center of three lives connected by blood and friendship.

In Part 1, it’s 1952, and Kenya—long under colonial rule—is seeing violent clashes as the British try to put down the Mau Mau uprising. Atrocities and police raids affect the small village of Kĩandutu, home of 14-year-old Wambũi Karanja. Gifted in mathematics, Wambũi is accepted at a prestigious Kenyan boarding school, where she gains a mentor and friend in her White mathematics teacher, Eileen Atwood. Wambũi eventually marries shopkeeper Mwangi Kĩng’ori, discovering in herself an unexpected talent for business. In Part 2, Eileen is forced into retirement in 1989 and returns to England, where she feels like a stranger after more than 40 years away. Meanwhile, Wambũi’s son, Raymond, becomes a doctor, taking a residency at a Chicago hospital, where he experiences both prejudice and success. In his debut novel, Githaiga writes in the great realist tradition, sometimes recalling Victorian novelists like Dickens or, more recently, Vikram Seth. He paints on a wide canvas—investigating points of view of those disparate in age, gender, and nationality with equal attention and skill—in prose that’s lively but dignified. For example: “homesickness, that erstwhile banished companion, began to make an unwelcome comeback.” Racism is an important theme in the novel, all the more effectively explored because Githaiga uses a scalpel, not a hammer. Wambũi, taking the train to boarding school, notices a sign reading “WHITES ONLY. She turned left and continued walking.” Also thoughtfully considered is the complexity of immigration, as with Eileen’s story. Home, to her, is Kenya, where she’s never become a citizen.

A rich, absorbing story of destinies intertwined across time and space.

Pub Date: May 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73504-170-4

Page count: 366pp

Publisher: Bon Esprit Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Awards, Press & Interests

THE PEOPLE OF OSTRICH MOUNTAIN: Kirkus Star

THE PEOPLE OF OSTRICH MOUNTAIN: Named to <i>Kirkus Reviews'</i> Best Books, 2020

THE PEOPLE OF OSTRICH MOUNTAIN: BookLife Reviews, Editor's Pick, 2020

THE PEOPLE OF OSTRICH MOUNTAIN: Semifinalist, BookLife Prize, 2020