On Reading ‘Dust’ by Yvonne Owour

“I couldn’t go past page ten,” Joan says.

“I found it too difficult to wade through,” Eva says.

We are at Publishing training and of course, the conversation over lunch is book-centred. The book under analysis: Dust by Yvonne Owour.  

“What about you, Vera?” they turn to me.

“I haven’t read it yet but from what I hear, it is only written for a specific clique of people – intelligencia,” I added.

That was two years ago, and truthfully, I believed what I heard and said. I trusted the reviews (surprisingly, they were all word of mouth reviews). I might not have read ‘Dust’ had it  not appeared on the reading list in one of my units. And oh, I felt so so sorry for myself; for having not read it all these years.

Warning: ‘Dust’ might not be for you if you just want to read for book count; or if you swear by the conventional definition of a novel. It demands that you invest your time and intelligence (I was right on the ‘intelligencia’ part) while reading. It takes over a chunk of your life within the time you’re reading it. At least that’s what happened to me.

Within the period of reading ‘Dust’, I wasn’t here. I went about my duties mechanically for in those four days, I lived in the world of the book. I chopped onions but I didn’t cry. It’s blasphemous to cry at chopping onions when you’ve never shed a tear for Kenya. For Tom Mboya. For all the names that are forgotten, as if they never existed. Yvonne chops up pieces of history and layers them as the backdrop of the story. A story about people who live together in the physical world but live in different worlds.

In this world, time does not heal wounds. The past hovers; the past threatens. The past refuses to be past.

I couldn’t write a review. Mostly because the book is not just about the story; it is about words; luscious, heavy, poetic. It is about the landscape of a human. Because it’s too beautiful; too rewarding a reading experience.

It is also because this is not a book you talk about. It is a book you feel. I shivered. I froze. I…i…stammered in my thoughts. It is in learning that the difference between life and death is perhaps just in the number of letters.

So now, when I look at Tom Mboya’s statue, it has a different meaning. Deceit. Pain. Struggle. Dependence. The afters:

‘After Tom Mboya (died), everything that could die in Kenya did.”

“After Mboya, Kenya’s official languages: English, Kiswahili, and Silence. There was also memory.”

“What endures? Echoes of footsteps leading out of a cracking courtyard, and the sound a house makes when it is falling down.

What endures?
Starting again.”


        Is haunting.

What’s left of the soil?


What’s left of us?


Is pain. Formless Pain. Purposeless pain.

Have you read ‘Dust’?

Will you read ‘Dust’?

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