The River and the Source Summary Notes

An Overview:
The River and the Source is an epic tale of three generations of Kenyan women and their progeny, spanning over 100 years, takes the reader from a nineteenth century rural village in Western Kenya to the end of the twentieth century in modern-day Nairobi. Join the descendants of Akoko as they confront cultural upheavals, from the coming of Catholicism to AIDS, with the courage and reserve that they derive from the blood of their matriarch. The River and the Source is a capacious novel that will take you beyond the intimate life of a single family; it will take you into the heart of Kenyan women everywhere. The River and the Source has been on the KCSE syllabus as a set book for many years, and it won the 1995 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first book, Africa Region.

Margaret Atieno Ogola (12 June 1958 – 21 September 2011) was the Kenyan author of the book. Dr. Ogola, a paediatrician by profession was also the recipient of the Familias Award for Humanitarian Service of the World Congress of Families. She wrote 3 novels, a biography and a handbook for parents. These include: The River and the Source, I Swear by Apollo, A Biography: A Gift of Grace (Cardinal Otunga), Educating in Human Love and Place of Destiny. She worked on her last book titled “Mandate of the people” a book she completed before her death.

The River and the Source is divided into the following chapters:
1.    Chapter One: It’s a baby girl!!
2.    Chapter Two: The young chief owuor kembo- a man of nyadhi
3.    Chapter Three : The bride price and marriage ceremony
4.    Chapter Four : a Juok!
5.    Chapter Five: The cold reception

Discussion Questions
For the purpose of learning, the following are discussion questions about The River and The Source:

  1. The progeny of Akoko are many, but Ogola chooses to focus almost entirely on the long line of daughters. How does this compare to other classic genealogical epics, like Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude?
  2. Each generation of women embark on a path that is in marked contrast with the generation before her. How does this manifest itself in Akoko? Maria? Elizabeth? Vera and Becky?
  3. How does Ogola’s minimal reference to the passing of time (e.g., world events) impact your reading of the story?
  4. “The leaving and cleaving was always more difficult for a woman who has to tear herself from so much, and give so much – which almost always went unnoticed.” Hows does Wandia’s reflection permeate throughout the generations?

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