Book Review by Mutendei Nabutete

Tales told by the Son of Kenya – Real Review

The first question I always ask myself before and after I read a book is simply, 

“What does this book mean, stand for and communicate as a vehicle of literary
expression and education beyond its entertainment value?”

“Tales Told by the Son of Kenya” is a mirror reflecting the
multilayered and complex intricacies of Kenyan society, government and business
that can equally be both liberating, uplifting and yet without remorse venomous
to the multitudes of Wananchi living in Kenya.In reviewing this book I read it twice, making sure to get the actual grasp of Tales told by the Son of Kenya’s true powerful resonance.

Tales told by the Son of Kenya aptly covers what it means to be a real Kenyan
growing up or starting to experience life as a young adult or seasoned Veteran of
Kenyan society. It is unadjusted depiction of life for the vast multitudes of the under
privileged or non elite and the double lives people are forced to live not necessarily
through any volition of their own.

In so doing this novel discusses and ancient argument, pitting morality against well
illustrated social evils and the wavering of the moral compass in the face of ones’
survivalist needs. The Preface that leads into the books different segments reconciles and reaffirms the backdrop against which the book has been developed and is presented in. The preface draws parallels from the authors own literary life development, going from hearing stories narrated by his mother to writing his own Tales told by the Son of Kenya.

In addressing the different dynamics of Kenyan society within this book the books author, Aggrey Chepkwony Sambay effectively depicts the constant ongoing demographic life
transitions and how the Kenya social-economic strata are embedded upon the very same. The examination of these hybrid complexities is well examined within the four acts of the book

I.        Genesis – Chapters One to Five

II.      Struggle to Survive – Chapters Six to Twelve

III.     From Ashes to Wood – Chapters Thirteen to Seventeen

IV.     Exile – Chapters Eighteen to Twenty.

As I read Tales told by the Son of Kenya, it became immediately apparent that by
not titling the Chapters of the book, the author sought to have them speak for themselves. While I cannot flaunt this novelist approach, in reviewing this book I was compelled to
attach my own titles to each to highlight the significance and meaning of each chapter.


Chapter One: The Unknown

The story starts with an unnamed protagonist, making suits the title of this part of
the book well suited, as it portrays the beginning of an unknown Identity within an
unknown place. The main focus here is how survival translates in to his as yet undefined
workplace and the adoption of a career shark mentality that advocates looking out for
yourself because your work mates won’t necessarily do so. He also reminisces on what he
gave up and lost in pursuit of his career goals and how one can lose oneself along the
career path.

Towards the chapters end the protagonist has an emotional, slightly erotic reunion
with Cheryl through which we learn his name, “Rey”.  It is unclear whether this occurs
in reality or in a dream state, which sets up the symbolic closing. “Dreams are just wishes.” They can represent likes or dislikes – or perhaps your fears  if you are a paranoid type like a crack head. They are to be ignored.” In Kenya life can be a vivid dream or a nightmare, depending on your approach to life and your social economic standing.  But that’s just like life anywhere else in this world.

Chapter Two:   “Nature vs. Modern Life” or “What everyone hopes for.”

Chapter Two opens figuratively jumps forward in time, presenting Rey and Cheryl now
in a serious relationship living together in a solid relationship, not without problems
of its own. Chapter Two also serves to descriptively portray the Physical environment of Nairobi and how it can either mirror or differ from the social strata that one occupies. “Rey” is brought back to reality from his daydream by the ringing of the telephone.

The telephone conversation propels him forward to an in-depth conversation
that he has with his colleague Adams at the scene of a horrific multiple murders,
the murder scene of their own work colleagues. This alludes to a fate manyhave met
in Kenya. The job you do on a daily basis, regardless of its apparent simplicity/complexity,
value or worth can result in unexpected, compound tragedies visited upon you.                 The frequent reference to bumpy roads in Rey’s journeys in Kenya alludes to this.
But then again Life is hardly a smooth safe ride for anyone anywhere.

Chapter Three- Reality Bites!

Chapter Three introduces Nairobi, Kenya’s most renowned city, its capital and centre of beauty, business and vice. Chapter three shows the duality of Kenyan life, the extremely well off and the extremely impoverished, City and Slum. With Nairobi being Kenya’s key persona in a sense, the personalities of Kenya’s metropolis are brought to the forefront. “Politicians with wild personalities ran this capital” & the downtrodden Wananchi who suffer under them.The Character “Rey” highlights this suffering through his own painful experiences as his “family became a victim of these so called founders of (Kenya) the great nation.”

 Chapter Four- The Economic Sand Glass

Kenya’s main economic developmental program runs on two main elements, tourism & the agriculture. “The main export Tourism according to the statistics from the minister
of culture dropped by 30%” at a time when agriculture, which is now the main economic activity wasn’t really developed and the country’s economic status was heading toward economic crisis.”

Despite the apparent economic doldrums and the numerous hardships Kenyans undergo,
there are very few Kenyans robbed of their social levity and the social scene is a big trait
of Kenyan culture. The descriptive representation of the activities hosted within the “Tide Pub” highlight the elements of Kenya’s social culture. Some are questionable, others not.

Chapter Five: The Twilight Existence

I once read a book which if I recollect correctly was titled “The Twilight Ladies” and this could accurately typecast the main character in this chapter Ross. Double lives and sex tourism/prostitution are a vice that exists within the underbelly of Nairobi and Tourism. There are individuals both men and women who lead double lives within these circles, in  order to maintain their existence within both worlds.


In reviewing this section I grouped chapters six to ten together under the adopted titles that I gave them. Together they depict “How to survive in Kenya”.

Chapter Six introduces fictional conspiracies, portraying unreservedly Kenya’s swinging pendulum of momentary stability, from ones temporary happiness to the seemingly ever constant or permanent hegemony of corruption and death (Floods, starvation, drought, Crime and  Cattle rustling).

Focus then shifts to the State/Government and the ineptness of the handicapped national services to perform their respective duties, in particular the Hospitals and the state within which they operate (Page 59). The response to half answers after the shooting of Zam and Adams can be taken as an indirect representation of Kenyan’s dissatisfaction with their own government services.

Chapter Eight follows the moral shift and disregard for values that happens when people rise to positions of power (Again this happens everywhere). “Six Years later I recalled how friendly they were before they became engulfed by the most corrupt elements of life – Fame, Money, Power and (loose) women(Pg 75).

“Money, fame and power can truly turn things upside down. These are the elements that do not allow us to rule our very own existence.” These chapters go further to highlight how corruption has penetrated the economic facets of Kenyan life and Kenya’s economy of Tourism, Agriculture, Medicine, Security and Government Politics.

Chapter Ten & Eleven move on to speak to organized crime within Kenya and Kenya’s own significance Internationally and the impact of foreign interaction and influence, legit and also illicit. These chapters seem to ask and answer how much of the Kenya within the “Tales told by the son of Kenya” runs off of criminal enterprise.


Chapters 13-17 -”The Circle of Life”

Similarly as I did before I have grouped Chapters 13-17 together under the fitting moniker of ”The circle of life”,  Chapters 13-17 returns the novels focus to the secretive aspect of hidden industries within Kenya. In a visceral manner they show how people can so easily be torn apart or brought together by a common tragedy or dilemma and forces beyond their own control or sources of influence.  This is no better represented by the shift in the partnerships that “Rey” lives out, losing Cheryl to his instinctive drive to protect her and the wedge brought between them by the conspiracy and how he is pushed into the arms of Carina, in seeking to solve the corrupt riddle and bring their suffering to an end.


Chapter 18-19 “The Wire meets Tony Montana”

These chapters focus intently on the human embodiment of the criminal element of the story, the “Tony Montana” of this saga, the do anything, risk everything “Taylor.”   It resonates the impact and how far reaching and devastating organized crime can be if left unchecked and how far people will go to get what they want.

Chapter Twenty – “The Human Condition

The Last Chapter, Chapter twenty vividly portrays the human condition and debates the ages old struggle the moral state of humanity in direct relation to their environment and the personal circumstances and resources that come into play in one’s life.

It also incorporates elements of the circle of life, where at the end of the chapter
a simple truth of life is made evident. You can fight your whole life to make it somewhere only to find happiness right back from where you came from and where you started.     “This Circle of life” connects directly to the poetical letter/self narrative- “Fixing a Broken Glass” spanning pages 106-111, which for all intents and purposes is the actual roadmap or heart of the book for the sentiments, thoughts and scenarios portrayed within the book. The entire book would be incomplete without ensuring that you’ve read this part as well.

Tales told by the Son of Kenya –  Aggrey Chepkwony Sambay

Aggrey Sambay was born and raised in Bomet a small town in South West of Kenya, on December 27th 1986. He moved to Canada in 2008 to further his studies, where Aggrey Sambay is currently pursuing a specialized Honors degree in Astrophysics at York University.

Aggrey Sambay as the author of the inspiring and educative fiction novel aptly titled, “Tales told by the Son of Kenya has introduced himself as a valid author and has been showcasing his book through Chapters-Indigo, doing numerous book signings at several locations within the GTA

Tales told by Kenya is available in hardcopy (through Aggrey Sambay directly) and as an E-book through Amazon and Kobo books at the links below.


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