You met them in words. You lived with them, probably still do. You identified with them. You were at their graceful feet, licking off some of the power they exuberated. You probably fell in love with one, or two; dated and had your heart broken. To you, they are not just characters, they are people who make you feel. Some you averse, some you model after, some who inspired you. And one thing they share: they are unforgettable.
Here is my unforgettable list:
- Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Hurston
Janie is my superwoman. She taught me how to breathe. How to fly. Life through her eyes is full of colour. She has known hardships but she has survived and she loves like she has the world at her feet; and when her lover dies, she refuses to let her soul drown with him. And she told me this; “Two things everybody’s got to do for themselves. They got to go to God, and they got to find out about living for themselves.”
Janie is power, light and grace all in one. Here is the review:
2. Celie in The Color purple by Alice Walker
This 14 year-old black girl writes letters to God. She tells God of the ugliness that is her life. But the story is in her growth, transformation and the strength of love. When she finally lets go of the cloak of victimization that has hung over her body, she learns to live. If you are still holding on to the wrongs life has dealt you, read this story
- Mr Ainoo in Asemka by Ayi Kwei Armah (Adapted from the Short Story Anthology, Looking for a Rain God and other stories
“Mr Ainoo is not a good person. He is not a bad person, but he has too much respect for himself; so he has no respect left for anybody else”. That’s Mr Ainoo for you, don’t you love him too?
You can’t forgive yourself for not reading the stories in this anthology; they are flawless. You’ll love and laugh at Uncle Ben too, and the Prison -Monger, and hate Kwame Asante… just read this one, please.
- Kainene in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie
Kainene is that women who’d wear the darkest dress to a party but everybody would notice her. She stands out. She is boldness redefined. She is unapologetic and strong.
I still worry if she’s alive; because I would give a lot to see her again.
- The narrator in The Neighbour by Rabindranath Tagore
They say, ‘I died of laughter’, now, if laughter kills you have to die after reading this one:
- Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Two men: waiting for someone (Godot), not sure why they’re waiting for him, if they’ve met him before or if they are waiting at the right place. As they wait, they keep busy doing mundane activities and meaningless talks. They even contemplate suicide.
These guys (and play) will teach you the absurdity of human life.
- Moet in Till I’m Laid to Rest by Garfield Ellis
He sells drugs to American children. A criminal but sweet to a fault. The kind of criminal who can confuse the life out of you; as he does to Shirley (the main character). Shirley plans to leave him but she has to ‘borrow’ the courage to do it.
This is one great book too. Read the review here:
- Ivan Ilych in The Death of Ivan Ilych and other stories by Leo Tolstoy
Because, “The story of Ivan llych’s life was one of the simplest, most ordinary and therefore most terrible”.
“At first Ivan had no clearly defined intentions on marrying, but when the girl fell in love with him he said to himself, ‘why not marry?’ …So Ivan llyich got married.”
There’ nothing like a man being forced to confront death, he only sees the light on his deathbed. You don’t want that, do you? Read Ivan’s story.
- Yatima in Voices by Abenea Ndago
Because I still have nightmares of Yatima’s death. I could have given so much to protect this boy with a tender skin, brown hair, red ears, and the imitation of white skin. God, I loved him.
“They looked on as the bullet held and hurled him in the air, his two, small, white legs flittering momentarily, and then the tin followed him to the other side of the rock, where he fell brutally, like a dog swept away by a speeding lorry. There was no time to cry, scream, or whimper.” – This stuck.
- Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov in Crime and punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I couldn’t bring myself to hate him even after slicing two women’s heads with an axe. Instead, like Sonia, I wanted to hug the pain and suffering (that could have made an optional title) out of him.
Here are more memorable characters from other readers
- Meka in The old man and the medal by Ferdinand Oyono
Meka is an elderly man who gave up his land for the white man to build his church. In return, he gets the front seating church on Sundays.
In recognition, the white commissioner decides he deserves a medal.
In preparation, Meka has a tailor make him a jacket. He also buys his first pair of shoes. To wear them, he cuts two holes for his ties and has them filled with wet sand overnight.
On the appointed day, he is made to stand in a circle under the scorching sun. He gets so frustrated that the best he can do is murmur a prayer: for relief from the pinching shoes, a drink of water and a pee!
Since he cannot fulfil religious rites, he says” I make the sign of the cross inwardly”! – Ndiang’ui
- Thomas Bigger in Native Son by Richard Wright
He helps the writer communicate the message of racial discrimination. His courage as he tries to conceal his actions is remarkable.- Martin Muchemi
- Duzman,in The Cockroach Dance by Meja Mwangi
I just fell in love with the guy. He’s got a great sense of humour.
He is paranoid as he imagines cockroaches plotting to kill him. He even thinks of installing park metres for the cockroaches since he was a metre reader.- Amina
- Abunuwasi in ‘Hekaya za Abunuwasi na Hadithi Zingine’
Abunuwasi tricks the rich and greedy men to give justice to the poor and innocent. For instance, a rich man accused a poor fellow for spoiling his party because the poor man was eating his ugali from the rich man’s broth. Solving the matter, Abunuwasi dropped some coins that were to be paid to the rich man as fine and told the rich man to take the sound of the coins as payment in place of the food aroma. – Sakin Nekoye
- Ben and Oluoch in Going Down River Road by Meja Mwangi
Oluoch once asked Ben “Imagine dying before Lunch?” –Gidion Mackenzie
- Godfrey Munira in Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Religious fervour pushes him to burn up Wanja’s ‘workplace’. The tongues of fire formed Petals of Blood.- Andrew Joseph
17. Mackenzie in The Shack by William Young
It’s a snow season, he finds the mail box open with a letter inside, yet he can’t see footprints of the message boy or mail van.
He also finds out God is not who he has lived thinking He is- Vinky Tha Poet
- Tracy Whitney in If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon
She camouflages through struggles and ends up becoming a con artist to be able to brush shoulders with the rich.
I love her because she has an unstoppable resilience coupled with intelligence- Rehema Zuberi
- Sarah Jakes in LOST AND FOUND
Sarah Jakes who is the daughter of the famous preacher T. D Jakes explains how lost she got in the process of looking for affirmation from her friends.
She gets pregnant at 13, a shocker, since she’s expected to be of good morals. This book talks of how difficult it is trying to fit in. She talks about her struggles, getting focused with her baby in the picture but her family supports her. She goes back to school but distractions creep in.
In all this she finds solace in God. This book mainly talks of how God’s love is unfailing, He’s an infallible friend. He finds her!
Have you ever felt lost or actually got lost in life? This is a book for you. – by Esther Zighe
- Mitch Rapp in Separation of Power by Vince Flynn
Because some characters are to be remembered. -By N.M
Which one stuck for you?