- File Size: 767 KB
- Print Length: 299 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1543282512
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Crooked Cat (March 30, 2017)
- Publication Date: March 30, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01MRAG2F3
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,025,095 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Grass Shoots: A tender African Love Story Kindle Edition
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There were descriptions of the marvels of Africa, and there were descriptions of the poverty and the struggles. I was impressed that truth was not compromised in favour of romanticism. Instead, we find a clear-eyed view of the reality of life in Kenya. For instance, 'That is the trouble in his country. The women scrape a living at home, spending days cultivating meagre crops from the scorched earth and fetching water for their families, which increase every year. And men make more babies from other women in other villages, get drunk and talk about finding work. They think up excuses and look for the easy way out, and the women bear the burden of bringing up the children.'
It is easy to give money to help, but difficult to make real improvements. Charity given by Western countries so often goes astray, and this story describes the difficulties and the setbacks as well as the generosity. Help is given in ways that the villagers can accept as their own progress - a philosophy of giving that starts with the grass roots.
I would have given this story 4 stars, but I have learned from it, and that has been a bonus. 5 stars.
The novel's characters are a diverse group, as befits a book that wants to convey the essence of modern Kenya, with its ethnic and ecological richness. The story roughly centers around Emily, a young African woman who comes to Nairobi to make her way in the world. She develops close relationships with Paul (white), the son of the woman who raised Emily after she was orphaned by the AIDS epidemic ravaging the continent, and Sam (biracial), who was also taken in by Emily's adoptive mother after his own mother died and his father disappeared following the political upheavals of 1982. Meanwhile, a second narrative thread follows Ouma, Sam's estranged father, who has been forced to go underground and is only now re-emerging into society and reconnecting with his family. All the characters are brought together by the village of Amayoni and the Grass Shoots charity.
The large cast of characters and the long time span covered--from 1998 to 2015--means that individuals are often only lightly penciled in rather than fully fleshed out, although Emily is full of individuality and charm, and events, even momentous ones, are often blips rather than major plot points. However, the main focus of this novel seems not to be so much the characters per se as it is Kenya itself, its beauty and its troubles. Descriptions of the Kenyan landscape and wildlife are rich and lyrical, and the reader is clearly allowed to see what a vibrant, multi-cultural country modern Kenya is. This effect is heightened by the frequent use of Swahili words, which are glossed in the back of the book for those who don't enjoy independent dictionary work as much as I do!
The thorny question of how to help with the poverty and corruption that trouble Kenya is also a major point in the work, as the African characters struggle (for legitimate reasons) to trust the Europeans who genuinely want to help out, and the Europeans struggle to figure out how they can do more good than harm with their money and enthusiasm. "Grass Shoots" is not as character-driven as this kind of sprawling family saga tends to be, but it's a fascinating and loving look at contemporary Kenya, both the bad and the good.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Grass Roots brings us up to date and we find out how the lives of the principal characters have turned out over the intervening decades. Fortunes have changed, and a new generation has grown up.
This tale is written by somebody who knows Kenya intimately, who loves the country and its people, and who perfectly understands their culture. The efforts of the charity to help the victims of inter-tribal fighting are particularly insightful, as the victims are unable to understand why strangers would help another for no apparent reason.
Once again there is an entwined interracial love story, an eternal triangle between three friends, and the outcome is only resolved when a long-held secret is revealed.
Altogether a most satisfying read, written with great sincerity by a writer who knows how to tell a good story against an historically accurate background.