All the chapter titles were written in Swahili as that is what I grew up speaking at home. “Furaha” means “Joy”.
The first chapter of the novel introduces what will be the main character “Nyajuru” as a newly-wed and her husband “Mutware”. It provides a background that will help the reader understand their bond. Nyajuru and Mutware are both orphans from the “Murya” tribe who grew up striving for excellence and dreaming of one day going to the “city” and make it. Nyajuru was raised by a single mother while Mutware had both parents before they succumbed to one of the frequent armed conflicts in the DRC.
The chapter opens up with Nyajuru and Mutware on their honeymoon up in the mountains away from where the rebels have attacked their village. For a moment, they decide to forget about the chaos and indulge in their love and that is when they begin to recognize their differences. As much as Mutware supported his wife’s strong will and independent thinking, he had been raised in a patriarchal society.
Mutware begins to realize that Nyajuru is different from what he thought was what a wife ought to be. First, it infuriated him that she wanted to make sure their honeymoon night wasn’t within her ovulation period. It didn’t make sense to him that she was making a decision on her own to prevent herself from getting pregnant even though she explained that she didn’t want to potentially conceive in the middle of a war.
Second, he admits to have cheated as a way of practicing before their wedding night and Nyajuru confesses to have done the same after learning about his indiscretion. It angers him that another man took her virginity and not him and besides, what he did wasn’t really cheating as it was so he would learn the right moves to perform on their wedding night.
The chapter ends with the couple coming together and apologizing.
It is no secret that in a patriarchal society, women aren’t often in charge of their reproductive rights. However, as we all know, there are always exceptions to the rule and Nyajuru must not have been the first one to take charge of her reproductive rights. It also goes without saying that in some of our cultures, women are expected to be virgins by the time they get married but the body count of the groom isn’t relevant to the conversation as it can’t be factored into whether he would be a good husband or not.
I enjoyed writing this chapter as it was funny, ironic, and close to reality.
See you next week as we explore the second chapter 🙂