Author: Jane Kaberuka
Reviewed by: Asuman Bisiika
Available: All bookshops
Publisher: MK Publishers
Mark Kagoro wants to take Lucy as his second wife. But Alice, Markâ€™s church-wedded wife wonâ€™t take any of this. She wonâ€™t have any conjugal relationship with Mark any more. With her five children, Alice, however, adamantly refuses to leave her marital home; she is still Mrs. Kagoro after all.
As a grass widow (woman whose husband is away for prolonged periods due to rejection), Alice throws herself against social norms by looking for a lover.
However, her attempts at getting into any serious love affair with men are futile due to her tricky marital status. Then she finds love in Michael, Markâ€™s friend. Alice does not love Michael for the mere physical thrill that comes with sex. She wants to have a child with Michael, fate though decides otherwise.
But then Alice has been exposed to the morbid dangers brought by Markâ€™s promiscuity. She is now an AIDS patient on her deathbed. It is on her deathbed that she shares her story with Allie, her eldest daughter.
The story in The Cherished Grass Widow is Aliceâ€™s memoirs as read by her daughter. Quite a read! It is a passionate challenge to polygamy. It is a reaction of an educated woman to the social and economic folly of polygamy and its attendant negative aspects. But it offers a lot more.
The book tackles challenges women face in marriages today: the sublime loss of name identity, domestic violence, the fate of children in failed marriages and the fate of women separated from their husbands. The story is also an examination of human relationships. The sex debate cuts across the book. The author tells it as it is, and yet avoids the temptation to be pornographic or vulgar.
â€œI am sure when you heard about me you were hurt and disappointed. But you shouldnâ€™t have been. Men are selfish beasts. But then, so are we women. I want to dress like you, I want the comfort and luxuries that I think you enjoy. But your husband, like all other men, will not part with his money for a smile. So, I sleep with him. He uses us both to satisfy his obese ego; let us use him too. There is no need to fight. Get what you can from him. I am doing the same. Stop imagining love. He neither loves me nor youâ€.
You do not expect a woman you are accusing of grabbing your husband to square it with you like that, do you? But that is Lucy, Markâ€™s mistress talking to Alice. However, Jane is only portraying Lucy as a liberal feminist who wonâ€™t be detained by the psychological demands of men whose only interest in love affairs is the thrill of sex.
And yet Janeâ€™s book is not without blemish. Although the themes are derived from strong social contradictions, one would have expected stronger character-profiles in order to adequately represent the themes. For example, after the separation, Aliceâ€™s rebellion would have been better expressed in a changed attitude towards conventional dress code, social, career and professional disposition. Given the trend in Uganda, may be a rebellious Alice should have attempted to join national politics.
Kaberuka on the evil of polygamy