The River Between is a subtle tale that manages to comprehensively deal with a variety of themes including the challenge of leadership, the values of traditional heritage, the destructive nature of rejection of culture and finally, the multi faceted dimensions of the human personality.
As an African woman in the Diaspora, the writing of African writers from the Continent is a very important and an integral means of connecting with a heritage that I am routinely forced to ignore and misunderstand. This novel, amongst many other African novels, is an important tool in the re-education of the mind, forcing you to understand the dynamics of the many diverse African cultures as well as introducing you to the unique mode of storytelling that African writers illustrate so well, and Ngugi is a particularly accomplished story teller.
A River Between, although set amongst the Gikuyu, has lessons for all African people everywhere fighting for self-determination, survival and most importantly, global unity amongst African people. The way in which Ngugi deals with the issue of Female Circumsion is one that I have to respect. He does not simply demonise the practice but puts the practice into the context of tradition and heritage. Indeed, he highlights the perils of literally `white' washing African cultures through the character of Joshua who ultimately loses both his children.
One of the most memorable quotes for me occurs in Chapter 25 when Waiyaki thinks to himself about Joshua, the `white' man's horse:
"He had clothed himself with a religion decorates and smeared with everything white. He renounced his past and cut himself away from those life-giving traditions of the tribe. And because he had nothing to rest upon, something rich and firm on which to stand and grow, eh had to cling with his hands to whatever the missionaries taught him..."
Overall, River Between is a beautifully written story that illustrates the complimentary nature of duality or seemingly apparent opposites. It is subtle and yet bold; inspirational but also cautionary. Everything is intricately interwoven and you realise that all elements of life is steadfastly connected with each other, you can not successfully separate love from social responsibility, or heritage and legacy from the present and future.