The River and Source has a very simple plot. I would easily define the plot as a linear plot-in the sense that the book begins with the birth of Akoko, the flow and pace that the writer uses is of progressive nature. It moves from one event to another progressively to the end. Unlike many books, The River and the Source lacks real conflicts for one cannot fight with nature. The supernatural forces within the book sets the motivation in Akoko to live on and see another day unlike in other novels where, revenge is motivated with a wrong done or the antagonist has to face off with the protagonist. The protagonist has to learn the antagonist’s weaknesses and defeated for a happily ever after life.
The River and The Source begins with a fine morning where a child is born in the house of Aketch the Second wife of the Great Chief of Yimbo Odero Gogni Adinda. The child is the first born daughter in a family of already seven sons. Significant in the beginning of the text is the naming process, the Nak festival and the resounding marriage of Akoko to Owuor Kembo.
Akoko’s marriage, despite the love that exists between them, faces some challenges. Akoko is hard at bearing children a condition that rubs the mother-in-law the wrong way. Despite her being industrious and successful she is faced by galloping problems.
Her first born son, Obura escapes home and is reported to have died in the First World War of 1918 in Tanganyika (Tanzania). Before long, Chief Owuor Kembo passes on followed closely by the last born son Owang’Sino. This lives Akoko technically ‘barren’ that is with no son. Among the Luo and most African communities boys were valued and looked upto more than girls. A man’s strength was only as strong as the number of boys they sired. Akoko, though she still had Nyabera, had little to do in Sakwa and trooped back to her paternal home in Yimbo.
As fate could have it, Nyabera did not get a son to lean on. She stealthly walked out after her attempts to continue Okumu’s family with Ogoma Kwach hit a rock. She decided to live her matrimonial home and seek refuge in Aluor at the mission Station.
Akoko uncomfortable of her life as a migogo (unmarried woman) joins Nyabera. The young female controlled family includes Awiti, Nyabera’s daughter and Owuor Sino Owang’ Sino’s son. The new life in Aluor shapes Akoko’s perception of life.
Her perceptive nature sees her accept life as it unfolds. Nyabera tries her luck with family but life has dealt unfairly with her. Beaten up, Nyabera embraces her solitary life, cues her life with that of Akoko and the two women look after their family like accustomed lesbians.
In Aluor Owuor Sino develops a new liking for priesthood breaking the chain of leadership in Sakwa forever. Regardless, times had changed and chieftaincy, as it were, had changed with colonialism.
Awiti on the other hand trained to become a teacher. She met a young man Mark Athony Oloo Sigu. The two were betrothed to each other but before the big day, Akoko, having lived a life of determination, dynamism and love, died peacefully in sleep.
Nyabera stood in her mother’s stead and the river moved on. Awiti got married and her young family started her life in Nakuru. Mark with his infidelity learned the spirit of fidelity and brought forth a family of seven children-Vera, Becky, Aoro, Anthony, Opiyo, Odongo and Mary.
Becky Married John Courtney a Canadian and got two children- Alicia and Johnny. Vera joined Opus Dei and chose celibacy. Aoro now a doctor married Wandia a doctor from Central Kenya. They had four children-Lisa, Daniel, Mugo and Kipusa. Opiyo married Edna and they had two children-Elizabeth Jnr and Mark Jnr. Anthony became a priest like his uncle Peter Owour Kembo.
The book, in its dying embers extinguishes the life of Awiti after she had buried her mother many years ago in Aluor besides Akoko. Mark too, succumbs to his loneliness and is buried beside his wife. Overlooking their grave is the beautiful flowers on the grave of Becky who died of AIDS. The Book that started with life continues with life dropping life after life to the engulfing death that never tires.
The River and the Source is a genealogy with one key message, life is lived with an open mind that embraces change as it comes. Death is an inevitable loss that bestows in us the spirit of determination to face anything thrown at humanity with life. The book underscores the power of feminism and the role of women in shaping a generation of change and tackling anything that is thrown to them by life in the male dominated society.