The days of affliction that were the emergency period during the Mau Mau uprising in 1950’s Kenya form the setting for Njeri Kibui’s Days of Affliction. Published in 2010 by Author House, the novel follows the fortunes of Kamau, his daughter Wamaitha and son Mwangi who are touched by the violence of the day in Kikuyuland when Wairimu; their mother and Kamau’s wife, along with two other women does not return from what should have been a routine trip to the market in Limuru.
Ngarariga, where this family makes its home, is a village in the shadow of an ever present fear as people are mysteriously disappearing. The situation is not helped by the rumour that Kikuyu found in isolated areas by the security forces are being shot and their bodies disposed of in the surrounding thicket. Kamau’s efforts to trace his wife’s whereabouts through the authorities are all in vain. The Police speculate that the three women have joined the freedom fighters. It is only a year later that pieces of tattered clothing found on the bodies of three women found in Uplands forest give the authorities cause to believe the victims are from Ngarariga. The family will be separated as Kamau joins the freedom fighters and is arrested by the security forces A situation that leaves his family at the mercy of the locust-like homeguards at a difficult time.
From the start of the emergency period to right before Kenya’s independence, Days of Affliction covers a lot of ground with the stories of the people who meet and are involved with the surviving members of Kamau’s family. It is an even paced narrative with the focus squarely on the characters and only enough historical commentary to give detail to the situation. That is because Days of Affliction is about the people who live through those days and the people around them. It is about hope and the sometimes amazing turns of fortune that can occur even in difficult times. That more than makes up for the parts that might have been predictable. If Days of Affliction reminds us of anything, it is that tragedy and miss-steps are not an end in themselves. There are many more years left to live, many more things to live for after days of affliction.