In Wanjiku’s debut, a young Kenyan woman flees her tribe and its traditions in the hope of finding love and equality.
When Jenny Naeku is born in a Maasai village in Kenya, she greets the world with a strong cry and a raised fist. But there’s “no place in the village for big-mouthed girls,” Wanjiku writes. Years later, Jenny observes the village’s customs of female castration and arranged marriages and decides that “if she was to be with a man, it had to be her heart’s desire.” When she’s 14, she learns that her father wants her to marry a stranger. With her mother’s blessing, Jenny flees the village, making her way to Nairobi, where she hopes to have the “power to build and control her queendom.” There, she meets Rosie Wambui, a young woman who’d been sold to sex traffickers, and Diana, who escaped a violent marriage; these interactions make Jenny realize that women are oppressed all over the world. One day, while strolling in the forest, she meets the handsome Johnny, a 40-year-old millionaire from England. They marry and move to the United Kingdom, but once there, Johnny doesn’t introduce Jenny to his family, and he keeps his business a secret from her. From there, things only get worse. Throughout this novel, Wanjiku provides readers with enlightening information about traditional African culture, which she also compares to Western culture. However, it seems as if the author didn’t trust readers to grasp the story’s important message of female empowerment; the word “queendom,” for instance, is repeated over and over in this slender book. Also, although the story dedicates entire paragraphs to Jenny’s fight for equality, it glosses over some major plot points: Within two pages, for example, she’s hired and then fired from a job. Overall, it seems as if the author is far more concerned with message than with narrative.
Light on plot detail, heavy on moral lessons.