In the novella WHISPER TO MY ACHING HEART, novelist Joseph R. Alila (“The Milayi Curse”) tells a story about two eighteenth-century Luo widows who battle against great odds to become mothers of a future people. In this moving romantic story, a young widow (Apiny) is the bearer of the damning spiritually untouchable label in the patriarchal African society. Ejected alongside her widowed mother-in-law (Awino) and ridiculed by friends, Apiny waits for fifteen years before she receives another man in her bed. Even then, her moment of triumph only comes after Awino (an old widow whose womb is all but shut) remarries and raises a miracle son (Otin), who answers the call to marry Apiny and redeem his fallen brother’s honor. However, even after getting all the handsome sons and beautiful daughters she wishes to get from her youthful lover, Apiny is not at peace in her heart. She mourns and struggles, in her heart, as her youthful husband inevitably bows to Luo cultural demands and receives a virgin wife (Nyogola).
In Apiny’s senior years, the reality of her age and jealousy against Nyogola and her sons combine to motivate her (Apiny) to eject Otin publicly. Now, being a well-behaved jater (levir or substitute husband), Otin exits Apiny’s house without a fight, as one Magundho, an older man, eats by her fireside
In this story, the desire of one woman to honor the wishes of a fallen husband, and another woman’s resolution to establish a legacy of a fallen son, cement the widows together into a unified purposeful whole; that oneness enables them to survive the pain and humiliation of rejection, and they triumph in the end.