‘Imperfectly perfect’ may not be the most accurate words to describe the With Eyes Wide Open Novel for me, but it’s close enough. The story is genius. I especially enjoyed its unpredictability. You never know what comes next. It is by a Kenyan Author called Erick B Gichuru.
See the Synopsis of With Eyes Wide Open Novel
The anxiety, the hope, the uncertainty…. It’s as if it reflects life in general and 99% of my life. I especially love that the author picked a familiar beginning of the story, but that the experience of Joy was totally different compared to the typical storylines of teen mothers we usually get. The story, just like life itself, doesn’t conform to the typical “norms” society has created, thus making it original.
Natela Is Pushed Against the Wall
The sexual assault on Natela and yet not immediately getting angry at the perpetrator is an aspect I also found intriguing and quite relatable. It shows that, in some instances, someone will not always react in the way expected by all. A lack of immediate reaction could also mean a different way of dealing with trauma for some people. It could also mean that sometimes the victim might not understand the weighty impact of the injustice done to them and may want to seek justice in the future when they fully understand.
The mother being the one to chase her daughter mercilessly without hearing her side of the story is very ironic, considering she had also been unfaithful in her marriage. Maybe it’s because her daughter reminded her of her mistakes. Listening to our children is a skill most parents need to acquire these days, and guiding a child once they’ve made a mistake is also very crucial, especially since mental health is a current issue. Joy was lucky she had the will to leave. Most people in her shoes would instead commit suicide.
The Nice One’s Finish Last But…
People like Caali are the best people in the world; they are kind-hearted, always willing to help, and always go out of their way to help strangers. The other similar character is Mama T, who, despite suffering and losing her daughter and all finances, still had a heart willing to help. Not forgetting the bodaboda driver who took Natela from the hospital despite her pregnancy and still wanted to take care of her and her baby.
The only problem is that, in reality, they are usually either doing the least paying jobs, suffering, being forgotten, termed creepy, or remembered last for their kindness, just as portrayed in the novel. If we were all mostly humane, such people should be the first to be recognized. The only advantage they have is their power to be content knowing they helped someone out. Peace of mind. God bless them.
Impotency is also a major issue that is slowly arising. Whether it’s natural or a result of certain practices, it is rarely mentioned in literary works. It is also a very difficult thing for most men to accept. When a woman can’t get pregnant soon enough, everyone automatically labels her “barren”. Nobody ever thinks of the possibility that the man could be the impotent one.
The rumors and misconceptions that are pinned on ladies who don’t easily get pregnant are also not true most of the times. For example, the allegations that Joy’s mother might have had an abortion before are the probable reason why she was not getting pregnant.
A Messed-up Religious Family
The story also tackles a huge family issue, dishonesty. It is alarming that the number of fathers who support children thinking the children are theirs yet the children are another man’s, who is probably taking care of other children who do not think that they are his. Some never discover till they die, unfortunately.
I also enjoyed that the protagonist did not suffer all the time. She had a good 3 years of enjoying the money she was lucky to get. The issue of child trafficking, blackmail, drug dealing, and fraud have also been tackled clearly. Another aspect I admire is the friendship between Wanda and Natela. Despite their misunderstandings, Joy still sticks to her side to the end. Is it true friendship or is the best friend thing just overrated?
Joy’s younger brother’s condescending attitude is a problem elder siblings generally face. Most younger siblings feel entitled to privileges from their elder siblings, especially money. They tend to hurl back words or remind their elder siblings of their past mistakes when not given what they want. It’s like cutting the hand that feeds you yet expecting to still eat normally.
About Natela’s biological father…. That was really an unexpected twist to the story. I don’t know how to describe it. Being a Christian obliges me not to believe in curses, but my traditional beliefs do believe in curses. Maybe their relationship had something to do with the Oedipus complex. Either way, that must have been really a shock for the two. That was such a sad outcome for Natela, especially now that she was ready to settle down.
A Few Issues
There were some minor avoidable grammatical errors (I’m sure this will be improved). My copy also missed a few pages. The translation from Swahili to English also needs some sharpening. Some translations were off.
Language Use In With Eyes Wide Open Novel
The novel’s highlight is the use of Swahili/ Sheng’ in some contexts to bring the message home. There’s always something lost in translation sometimes and understanding it from the language and culture of the people makes it outstanding.
Being a natural talker and a passionate analyzer, I could write much more, but that would not be cool. If I could summarize my POV in a poem, I would.
This is a must-read for both young and mature people.
With Eyes Wide Open, a Kenyan Novel Review by: Joan Joy