At the center of the novel is Makata Mbutuku, a promising parliamentarian, and his spouse, Akwenoh. Their marriage is characterized by economically hard times and marital infidelity (by both of them). Akwenoh, for her part, has a number of sexual partners, including a certain Ebbi. And despite the veneer of respectability afforded by his political office, Mbutuku has quite a few skeletons in his cupboard.
When Mbutuku dies suddenly, Akwenoh is left with what appears to be enough investments to ensure her survival and that of their three children. But before burial, the grieving widow is progressively plunged into further grief as she gradually realizes that due to the debts incurred by her late husband, she stands to lose his only bequest – their home and two other houses he had built. She and her children become dispossessed and impoverished, and she has to depend on friends’ financial endowments in order to bury her husband.
And to make things worse, she has to contend with the hostility of her sister-in-law, even while her brother-in-law attempts to induce her into marrying him.
In the midst of all this, she comes to the shocking realization that she had not truly known her husband, and had, in fact, been living with a murderer.
The title, The Widow’s Might, reflects the might of the widow to withstand the flurry of emotional blows that hit her from the time of her husband’s death until she buried him. This novel is absorbing and evokes sympathy for the widow. It is also rich in their tribe’s culture and wise sayings.
Despite its strengths, The Widow’s Might has a few editorial and grammatical errors, which are overshadowed, by far, by its good points.
The author John Nkemngong Nkengasong is a Cameroonian poet, playwright, novelist and critic, whose other major works include Black Caps and Red Feathers (2001), and Across the Mongolo (2004). Nkengasong is currently Associate Professor of Literature at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon. Before that, he was a Fulbright scholar at New York University, guest writer at the University of Oxford, and visiting academic at the University of Regensburg, Germany. He also attended the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, USA.