Waiting: A Novel of Uganda at War by Goretti Kyomuhendo, afterword by M.J. Daymond
Still a young teenager, Alinda knows only too well the potential horrors of war … and yet her immediate family has, thus far, managed to miraculously remain intact and relatively safe. In 1979, the reign of Idi Amin – the internationally infamous Ugandan despot responsible for the extermination of some half a million people – is nearly ended, and yet citizens are not safe from the continuing violence brought by terrorizing soldiers and wandering “Liberators.”
Even in their remote village, the gunshots are never far enough; every night, Alinda’s extended family and neighbors gather to sleep away from their homes, on the edge of the banana plantation. Everything of value has been buried in pits, hopefully a safe distance from their houses. In spite of the looming danger, Kaaka, the grandmotherly family servant, claims herself too old to bother to seek nightly safety. Then Alinda’s mother, heavily pregnant and about to give birth, refuses to go to the sleeping place, as well.
Day after day, night after night, the villagers wait. Bullets, then a landmine, too soon shatter the village peace. When the “Liberators” – relatively peaceful, yet very hungry – arrive in droves, Alinda’s brother becomes fascinated with the peripatetic heroes, while her best friend and younger sister can’t seem to stay away from their makeshift tents. Meanwhile the adults worry about their depleted granaries … and the growing uncertainty of all their futures.
Goretti Kyomuhendo is a multi-award winning novelist in her native Uganda. Waiting, her first title to be published in the U.S. (from the lauded academic indie publisher Feminist Press), is not so much a story well-told as it is a sensitive meditation particularly focused on the effects of conflict and war on women. As the oldest daughter, Alinda must think first about her caregiver duties over her desire to return to school. The single mother Nyinabarongo and her young daughter are throwaway cast-offs from her husband and his family. The never-named “Lendu woman,” whose husband often travels, is shunned as a foreigner and labelled a witch for her healing herbs. The many wives of Alinda’s Uncle Kembo – depending on his interchangeable religious affiliation – seem to be little more than equally interchangeable bedmates for convenience and comfort.
Kyomuhendo is unblinking in her characterizations of Ugandan women in crisis … and yet what is steadfastly imprinted by book’s end is the women’s determination to survive and even flourish in circumstances dire, tragic, and often unimaginable.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2007 (United States)