Birthright (A Luo Tragedy)

JR Alila’s novel BIRTHRIGHT is a narrative of how one man’s cruel silence over his son’s ancestry almost destroys the latter among a people who value bloodlines and order in marriage. The battle over birthright among the sons of Odongo has turned tragic. Atieno is a victim of rape; she then enters a marriage that destines her to the rank of second wife. Her son Okulu is a beaten man: he walks with the tag of bastard (kimirwa); he is of dubious virility because of a grandfather who saw him as an alien seed, and he watches helplessly, as Juanita, his wife, breastfeeds another man’s sons, because the clan must grow. Recent events have alarmed Atieno: Juma, Odongo’s spiritual first son, has just posted a perfect middle-school graduation grade. Before that, Odongo relocated Okulu to a piece of land near the latter’s maternal uncle’s home. In Atieno’s analytical mind, Odongo literally had returned Okulu to his mother’s people.

While high on an oath Atieno just administered, Okulu critically wounds Aura, his stepmother. Then Okulu turns his rage on his stepbrother, Juma, Odongo’s spiritual first son. In a twist of instant justice, Okulu’s blind rage turns tragic, as he loses the function of both hands after Grace, Juma’s dog, bites him off a rabbit carcass.

The same night, Juma is running for his life, he rescues a young woman from a quagmire. But she is the metaphorical untouchable pearl he never would touch, for she is his stepsister.

If Owinyo and five of the Odongo daughter should come out as the peacemaker in this novel, Then Abich must join her mother and Okulu as the bad trio. But sometimes good things happen to bad people; Abich reaps a abundantly from her notoriety, when she captures a “mentionable” new husband amid the tragic drama to have visited Thim Lich in her time.

BIRTHRIGHT (A Luo Tragedy) unfolds within the context of a polygamous marriage in a traditional African home, which is a religious institution with social and spiritual bounds. When husband and wives breach the rules, the tragic conflicts like what befell the Odongo home are the more probable. BIRTHRIGHT should be judged alongside great literary works worldwide.


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