…my body began resenting your touches, filling its surface with goosebumps whenever you breathed near it.
Book: The Unbirthed Souls
Author: Eunniah Mbabazi
Publication year: 2022
Eunniah Mbabazi has published 4 books, including this one. I have never read any of her books before this one, so I didn’t know what to expect.
She is a poet, and her book reads like it is written by a poet.
“The burden of hurt outweighs that of guilt by far”
I would never have guessed that what this engineer turned poet/ writer, who comes in a petite package writes dark fiction. And how dark are they? They are gory, explicit, horrific and there is lots and lots of death. And lots of vomit. And blood. And getting into bathtubs.
Just to give you a sense of the darkness, the themes in the stories cover child abuse, revenge, grief, mental illness, suicide, lost love, longing for death. And death. Lots of it.
The book is a set of eight short stories, each written like a letter to somebody. The stories unfold in the letter.
And just to impress upon you again just what kind of stories they are, the letters are signed off in the following ways: The heaviest of hearts, Forever broken, Forever empty, With regret in my heart, Forever broken-hearted and so on.
I still cannot get over the stories. I spent my Sunday reading them, all the time asking myself why I was putting the vivid images through my mind. She unblinkingly writes taboo topics, daring us to look and see the baser aspects of human nature.
Now, why do people read dark stories, I wonder? And I know at least one person who loves them. I think it may be to get a glimpse of the experiences that most of us don’t live. And I think Eunniah might agree with this. I attended her book launch on 4 June, 2022, and she said that she would like for people to see what life is like in some people’s worlds.
“…you do not have to slash someone’s neck to be a murderer; you just have to take away their dignity, and put off all the lights in their soul.”
I guess this kind of story, like most stories, would get us to empathise with people we may not otherwise understand. One that comes to mind is Voiceless Voices, where a woman was in an abusive relationship. The ones outside abusive relationships often don’t understand why the victim does not flee, why they stayed there for so long. It is not as simple as that. As Eunniah aptly puts it:
“I have been here so long that I am afraid I would not know how to live without this violence.”
“You knew I was too broken to be free.”
This reminds me of the story about an animal who is tied to a post and for a very long time can only graze within a radius of 3 meters. When the rope is untied, the animal continues to graze only within the 3-meter radius.
In at least two of the stories, one of them being “River of Blood”, and the one story that was suspenseful, I wondered if the story was about Eunniah. The main character is tiny, and is delivering books. Eunniah herself said that the only true story is “This Soulless Life” a story about grief, which is about her best friend, the late Brenda Anyango Ogembo, to whom the book is dedicated.
I noticed that all the mothers in the book are bad mothers, evil even. This is reminiscent of the stories of one of my favourite short story writers, H H Munroe, more popularly known as Saki, whose stories are full of evil aunts.
Something that bothered me about the stories was how much the characters were victims, and their abusers or attackers were strong. But then I suppose that is how it is, for abuse to work. Despite it all, I spent my precious Sunday reading the book.
I don’t know any other Kenyan writer who writes within this dark fiction genre. I will look. If you know any, please let me know.
I am a dark chocolate lover, red wine lover, but most of all, book lover who lives in Nairobi and is currently looking for love in Kenyan books.
Many, many years ago, as a student, my impression was that all Kenyan books were set in the colonial period, were to do with the fight for independence or handled the political situation in the country shortly after independence. I didn't think there were books that wrote current Kenyan lives that I could identify with. I am now seeking them out.