In JR Alila’s novel A FISHY MATTER [ISBN-13: 978-1541311657], by a single unusual act, a beautiful witch, Kala, unsettles decades of peace between residents of Korondo Ridge and their neighbors on Osure Ridge.
Obera of Korondo Ridge is an unhappy woman: every Friday evening, her fresh-fish dish sends Odingo, her alcoholic husband, fleeing to alcohol dens before she even serves her soup.
Across the River Dolo, in one Chan’s home, Kala, a beautiful witch, has a different problem: she wants a child she cannot get from Otis, her witch husband. Specifically complicating her situation is her being a witch, a night runner–a fact that has limited her options from within Chan’s home. Didn’t the Luo of old say, “Jaber jaula–the beautiful one has a fault”?
Urged by her mother-in-law (Wilkista), who is anxious to cover her son’s shame, Kala looks beyond Osure Ridge to neighboring Korondo Ridge for seeds for her field. Thanks to her nocturnal life, one night, Kala encounters Odingo returning from a late-night alcohol party. A few nocturnal sightings later, Kala nabs Odingo, charms him into a zombie, gets her wish, and dumps the dumb zombie into a dead well in Dolo Valley.
The Luo say, “Jajuok ido gotieno to ing’eye–a witch charms people at night, but he or she eventually is known.” That is what happens in the Kala/Odingo saga. A boy within Chan’s home talks about Odingo’s disappearance. Chan is rocked when he realizes that his first wife, Wilkista–a woman with whom he has lived for over thirty years and the mother of his six sons–is a practicing witch, and so is Otis, their last born.
Odingo eventually regains speech, but only after religious ministers and a mysterious passerby play their spiritual hands in the case.
The Kala-Odingo saga is not over on both ridges. On Korondo Ridge, Kala charms her way into the hearts of Odingo’s family, principally by flaunting “a shared blood bond” at them. Call it the cat palling with the mouse, Kala soon is secretly dating Odingo, her victim, but a few pairs of eyes are watching from both ridges.
On Osure Ridge, Kala turns rogue: she directs her charms at Chan; she even bats down the father-in-law in his own home.
When Kala’s pregnancy becomes obvious, a raging verbal war erupts between Wilkista and Chan over the swirling claim that she sent her daughter-in-law (and fellow witch) to the aliens of Korondo Ridge, to get seeds for her field. Angry over the scandalous exposure, Wilkista orders Otis to get rid of Kala, just as the pregnant belle walks on the conversation.
Kala realizes her life is in danger, crosses Dolo Valley, and lands in brave Odingo’s waiting hands. Both elope to a distant city, leaving residents of Korondo Ridge and Osure Ridge wondering what has hit them. It is a first: neither ridge ever before lost a wife to their cross-valley neighbors.
Chan fights for his honor in legal courts, as Kala, now “born again”, sets her roots in Korondo Ridge.