A love story - about Kenyan culture.
Synopsis of A Whisper in the Jungle by Robert Mwangi: Deep in the African jungle where even the bravest are afraid to venture, lies a truth that will propel James through his improbable American journey, if he can come out alive. James a village boy in Africa receives a scholarship to go and study in America and he becomes the envy of the whole village. His girlfriend Janny is however skeptical of what a long distance relationship can do to love. But when Janny vanishes from the village, James and his dog Simba plunge into the belligerent forest at the risk of his life and his American dream. Love transcends all. A Whisper In The Jungle is a suspense story full of love, humor, adventure and mystery.
My two cents:I am always keen to read immigrant stories probably because I am an immigrant myself. I find it fascinating to hear how people enter into new cultures and come to terms with the new while combining it with the "old," resulting in a combining of both worlds. Everyone makes sense of it in their own way.
A Whisper In The Jungle speaks to this quite strongly but not in the way I expected it to. Robert Mwangi, in this semi-autobiographical book, shares the experience of being Kenyan and thrust into an American culture as a soccer player. I was prepared for a story along this premise so I was a little disconcerted when the soccer playing in America was just a diversion.
The stronger plot lies in the small Kenyan village where James was born, grew up and lives. Although he has gotten the taste of playing soccer abroad and is just about to start living his dream of leaving his village and make his mark in the world, James is compelled to return his childhood sweetheart, Janny, mysteriously disappears. This brings back horrible memories of the disappearance of his older brother.
Determined to find Janny, James sets out to into the dangerous jungle and unwittingly stumbles upon a secret that is difficult for him to fathom -- a secret in the jungle that tests James's loyalties and reveals truths about himself, his family and his culture.
- The originality of the story. I don't want to put in any spoilers in this review but the turning point lies in James's discovery in the forest.
- Mwangi's obvious love for African culture is the backbone of the storyline. The stories about James's village, his time with his family, alongside the descriptions of age-old traditions, important figures in African history, and of his homeland are a peek into the Kenyan culture that he so loves. This book is indeed a wonderful ambassador for the Kenyan culture!
- For those who have always wanted to see what it's like to be a foreigner in America, Mwangi's observations may be quite an eye-opener! James ponders upon American culture which he loves with an equal fervor as his Kenyan roots.
Uh-ohs:The storyline can be tightened up a bit. The beginning of the story sets up expectations for the plot to carry through with the soccer storyline so it is a bit confusing to be thrust back into the jungle. However, I thoroughly enjoyed how the story played out.
As with many books written by authors whose first language isn't English, I found this having some small niggling things that distract, and uneasiness in the flow of the language. This would have benefitted from having a good English editor so that thoughts could be tightened up. Some of things I picked up on were strange use of idioms, incorrect spellings (loose for lose, p. 31), some awkward wording (e.g. "In the next few moments of his life, he went through extreme forms of emotions ..." p. 63), and a general formality in the the use of English (especially towards the end).
|First cover art|
When I first was approached with this book, the cover was very different (see right). The cover honestly didn't appeal to me but then it does capture a sense of the immigrant story I was expecting. When I heard back from the author, the cover had changed to something similar to that in the cover art featured below. I think that cover art is an extremely important first impression, and while the current cover better captures the story, I'm not a huge fan of the Photoshop job.
Verdict: A young man's love story turned love story for Kenya. Read this if you'd like to learn something new about another country and culture.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.