By Kathleen Siminyu
Published October 14, 2009
From Terror to Hope, a fictional story book released in July 2009 and that has been used at the recently concluded Kenya Book Week (Children’s Reading Tents Finals) Celebrations in Nairobi, is now available at the University of Nairobi Bookshop, Nairobi National Museum Bookshop, Savani’s Book Centre and also at ComMattersKenya in Nairobi, Kenya. KATHLEEN SIMINYU of Kianda School, Nairobi, reviews it.
From Terror to Hope begins with a gruesome description of how a 12-year-old boy watches the slaughter of his family and friends and is left alone to care for an infant his mother had picked up before her death. Abandoned with nothing to live for, the boy is left to wonder what kind of God lets something so cruel happen to people who faithfully worshipped him; was this his way of repaying them? The infant, whom fate has brought into his hands, is now his reason for living. By protecting and defending the child, he feels a part of his mother lives on. The boy manages to get the infant reunited with her mother and they become somewhat of a family living in an Internally-Displaced People (IDP) camp with others like them.
At the camp he lives with the child and her mother and to him they are the closest thing to a family he can have. Various journalists visit the camp interviewing people and one of them takes particular interest in him.
The story, although fictional, is about an issue we are all familiar with. Violence, usually politically-instigated, pits neighbours and friends against one another, with the result being wanton bloodshed, loss of life and livelihood, and displacement.
The rest of the world watches with horror and compassion as the events take place but as time goes by and this information ceases to be news, the displaced people are forgotten. The world moves on while they are still suffering.
From Terror To Hope brings to light these events in such a way that renders them unforgettable, from the vivid descriptions that make the happenings so clear in your mind you can almost swear you were there as the events unfolded; the characters are so realistic that the reader can easily identify with and relate to.
The Hope intended for the end, however, is palpable. We have come to know the main character of the book so personally that a victory for him is a victory for all of us. What he feels becomes what we sincerely feel too so as he describes his journey to get to where he is and explains where he intends to go, he has become like a friend to us and we cannot help but wish him all the best. He is full of hope and consequently so is the reader.
However, the same cannot be said for the terror intended for the beginning. The book begins abruptly which deprives the reader the opportunity to get to know the family of the boy. If we had gotten to know a little bit more about the father and mother of the boy as well as his siblings, then their deaths would have had more of an impact in the same way that you are more likely to cry at your mother’s funeral than at the funeral of someone whom you recently met. Of course as the boy watches his family die, one does feel remorse but it is soon forgotten because those people were like strangers to the reader. Their deaths do not leave much of an impact.
From Terror to Hope also has a little bit of humour which does not go unappreciated. The humour lightens the gloomy mood of the events taking place and is, undoubtedly, my favourite thing about the book.