When Leena Kohli returns home to Kenya after three years in London, she's forced to reckon with the personal and national trauma that forced her abroad.
Verjee’s second novel (In Between Dreams, 2014) explores the nuanced, layered intricacies of racial politics in east Africa beyond black and white, focusing on the tensions between Africans and Indians living in post–British imperialism Kenya. While many Indians have left Kenya in the midst of political upheaval—“most of his friends have taken their families abroad to avoid the possible messy outcome of a rigged election”—Leena’s father, Raj, has decided his family will remain in Kenya and work for the greater good. Raj has groomed Leena's brother, Jai, to follow in the footsteps of his particular brand of idealistic activism, but life in Kenya is too much for Leena. Less than 24 hours after her return, she's assaulted by vandals, and her pleas for help are ignored by the corrupt police until Jai bribes them. Throughout all this, the mystery of the traumatic event that propelled Leena’s absence from Kenya drives the narrative. With her father and brother focused on politics and her entire family ignoring the depth of her pain, Leena finds refuge in a rekindled relationship with a childhood friend. Intertwined with Leena’s narrative is the story of jaded policeman Jeffery Omondi’s Orwellian descent into corruption, until the two storylines eventually come to a climactic head. While at times excessively coy in revealing information, the novel is rich in profound observations of character, psychology, and human nature. Moving seamlessly between present, past, and further past, Verjee creates stories within stories, rounding out her characters by presenting each as the fully-realized hero of his or her own story.
A unique, powerful voice in African literature.