A nurse, tutor, journalist, politician and diplomat, Grace Ogot is considered one of East Africa’s best writers. She is also the founding member of the Writers Association of Kenya. Land Without Thunder And Other Stories was her first book, and it was published in 1968 by East African Educational Publishers.
Ogot’s prose in this short story collection is suggestive of traditional folklore. Her stories intertwine the old and the new together, and she puts across mysteries that confound traditional and present day Kenya. Most of the stories are set against the scenic background of Lake Victoria and the author relies heavily on the customs of the ancient Luo people to make them more captivating.
Many of the stories are, indeed, steeped in local traditions, for instance, The Bamboo Hut, Tekayo, The Rain Came, and The White Veil. Other stories like The Hero and Night Sister, center around life in Kenya’s mission hospitals during the colonial era. One story, Karantina, touches on language barriers, while another looks at the tragedy of young girls harassed by their employers in modern-day Nairobi (Elizabeth).
As one reads along, one can’t help but have empathy for most of the characters in the stories. For example, in The White Old Witch, the missionary matron is resented by her rebellious nurses. In the end, it becomes evident that despite her tough demeanor, the matron cares deeply for her nurses.
In Elizabeth, Ogot writes about a young well trained secretary who quits her jobs due to sexual advances from her two successive expatriate employers only to be raped by an African employer whom she had come to trust as a respectable man.
Land without Thunder is a story about three cousins who work as fishermen and live in Agok land on the shores of Lake Victoria. One chilly morning as they set off on the lake to fish, a storm breaks out, their canoe capsizes, and only Owila survives. Even though everyone celebrates Owila’s miraculous survival, he doesn’t enjoy his life anymore as the ghosts of his two dead cousins can’t let him be! Even the strongest medicine woman offers only temporary relief. What will he do?
All in all, this is an interesting collection, and it is no wonder that many of the stories have been dramatized and performed to great acclaim in Kenya, Ogot’s homeland.