Fiction for Young Adults

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Mbatiah, Mwenda


Being Lost

Nairobi, Kenya: Phoenix Publishers, 2005. 152 p.
ISBN 9966-47-298-3. Ages 14 and up.

Language: Kiswahili

Publisher: Phoenix Publishers Ltd.

This novel provides a realistic picture of the life of educated young adults in modern Kenya by focusing on two friends, Kemathi and Chabare. Kemathi’s older brothers Getonga and Moronge are both married and working as civil servants, and they secretly bribe the chief in an attempt to exclude their two younger brothers, Kemathi and Mbaabu, from inheriting their father’s property. Kemathi is the only member of the family who has a Bachelor’s degree and is pursuing postgraduate studies in Kiswahili at the University of Nairobi. His long-time friend and fellow graduate, Chabare, has two brothers: Meja Mburungo, an army officer; and Keremi, a graduate of the University of Nairobi, who lives in the same house with Chabare.

Chabare is arrogant and careless in his love affairs. His girlfriend, Flora Nyambura, is similar to Chabare in her social behaviour. She has just completed her primary school teacher-training course and is waiting to be appointed to a teaching position when schools open in January. During the December holidays, Flora visits Chabare by lying to her stepfather that she is going to visit her maternal aunt in Mombasa. She plans to spend two weeks with Chabare in Nairobi before proceeding to Mombasa. While in Nairobi, Flora, Chabare, and Kemathi (with a girlfriend, Maria) go to the Ndototamu (Sweet Dreams) nightclub to dance. While Flora is dancing with Kemathi, she notices that Chabare is dancing with Maria. She is so possessive and jealous that she rushes to separate them. She slaps Maria and accuses her of being a prostitute who intends to snatch her boyfriend. Chabare joins her in beating Maria, not realising that Maria is both a karate fighter and a police reservist. Maria not only beats them but has them arrested, and they spend the night in jail. Yet the experience teaches them nothing. On the day Flora is leaving for Mombasa, she goes to the hairdresser, only to catch Chabare in bed with a neighbour’s maid upon her return. Flora is so furious that she takes an overdose of chloroquine and dies on the way to the hospital. While her body is still in the mortuary, Chabare acquires another girlfriend. Chabare and Keremi attend Flora’s burial where Ndung’u and some thugs beat them and kill Chabare.
Kemathi, in contrast, is a stable person who spends most of his time in the library in order to achieve his ambition of becoming a writer. He is a teetotaler with a steady and honest love for Pamela Kagendo. Pamela was an intimate friend and college mate of Flora, but with completely opposite characteristics. Pamela became pregnant while in college, and when the baby is born, he is named after Kemathi’s father.

Since the narrator is a postgraduate student of Kiswahili, the language used is for advanced readers. By portraying the sharp differences between the social behaviour of Chabare with his girlfriends and Kemathi with his fiancée (and his handling of marriage), young people will learn about character building. With the danger of contracting HIV/AIDS, young people should be cautioned by Chabare’s reckless sex affairs, whereas Kemathi is an admirable role model.  


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