Title: The Other Woman and Other Stories
Publisher: East African Educational Publishers
Author: Grace Ogot
Reviewer: Rumona Apiyo
The Other Woman is an anthology by the late great author Grace Ogot. She was accused of supporting patriarchy by the feminist community.
To me, she is the embodiment of the African woman who has gone to school and understood her role as a wife, mother and a career woman. She found a way to balance these three roles perfectly, making her the envy to many.
The unifying theme in this anthology is family. The setting is not limited to any particular area but the time set is a decade after independence — the 1970s and 1980s. The stories plough and converse over thorny issues in the family.
They examine and debate upon them, with the hawk eye of the reader. They introduce us to the supposed perfect family of Jedidah and Jerry in “The Other Woman”. They question if sex should be paid for or enjoyed as a free gift when Jerry rapes and sleeps with his housemaids. They ponder police abuse and misuse of power in “The Middle Door”. A woman holds the police hostage with a toy gun through the night.
In anger, they tell her, “You will know who is in power”, typical of the police in Africa.
They consider how the past and present are intertwined to give birth to consequences in “The Ivory Trinket”. They dig up the forgotten and buried. Strange magical realism haunts the pages of this anthology in “The Fisherman”, where the poor man, Nyamgondho, meets his wife on the shores of Nam Lolwe. His life changes because this new wife comes with wealth untold.
They question the health services provided by the government and expose the huge hospital bills in “The Electric Train”. These stories narrate the struggles of having a child through payday. On the day you are supposed to finally celebrate the cry of that baby in your house, thieves strike and batter you mercilessly.
Hard questions swarm in yet there are no easy answers on the evils that bedevil society such as lust for power in the “The Honouarable Minister”. June, a schoolteacher’s wife, agrees to sleep with a high-ranking minister in the government just to have a life like that of her sister.
Grace Ogot, whose death we remember on March 18 of every year, learnt the art of storytelling from the Luo folklore narrated to her by her grandmother.
As a pioneer woman writer in East Africa, she is able to merge Christianity and indigenous culture in a beautiful way, making you believe that it is possible for the two to live peacefully as co-wives.
Even in death, her pen makes her immortal. Her works are timeless; the level of drama contained therein is unmatched. Her stories educate and are entertaining. We honour you, Mama Grace, I hope you turn in your grave peacefully in this new decade!