Mary T. Wanjiku was born in rural Kenya when the country was working to regain independence from colonial British rule. Her family lived somewhat against the grain, allowing the female children equal access to education and growing a small farm into a larger business that led them to move to Nairobi, which was then a budding metropolis. Wanjiku went on to work for the City of Nairobi and travel the world to enhance her skills in water and natural resources management. She currently resides in the UK. This brief memoir tracks her life path from the bush to the big city.
Wanjiku has a great story to tell and the skills to bring each vignette across with emotional punch. Writing about when she was newborn and feeding for the first time, for example, she notes that British soldiers enforcing curfew broke down the door of the family home and held a bayonet to her mother’s breast, an unspoken way to threaten her mother into starving her infant and avoiding another rebel from joining the cause. The soldiers eventually left, but the terror lingered.
With such incredible material one has to wonder, why stop at 65 pages? A life full of such bold changes in the cultural landscape begs for more detail, more stories, just more. Everything here is interesting, educational and entertaining; readers who like it (and there will be many) would easily devour a book five times this size that incorporated more historical context and added details about the rest of the family.
This criticism is really a compliment in disguise; From the Slopes of Mount Kenya is informative and engaging and leaves readers wanting more. A lot more!
Also available in hardcover.