I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 25 February 2014.
Wanjikū na Ngūgī’s The Fall of Saints is fraught with race and reproductive conflicts, transformed into a thriller. The conflicts between black and white and the fertile and barren could have been rich ground for a novel, by na Ngūgī concentrated on the thriller aspects. This, unfortunately, is a book that could have been good. It falls short of being a good literary novel or a good thriller.
The Fall of Saints is narrated by Mugure Sivonen, a Kenyan immigrant who married a white lawyer. They love each other and very much want children, but Mugure is infertile. Instead, they adopt a boy from Kenya. Life is fairly idyllic for Mugure, though she doesn’t know much about her husband’s life and work outside of their home. She comes across a piece of paper in her husband’s locked office with her son’s name and the name of a company she’s never heard of before scribbled on it. Mugure’s husband, Zack, handled everything, and she realizes that she doesn’t know much about where Kobi came from. After a bit of investigating, Mugure turns up some discrepancies in the paper work and finds out that the adoption agency they worked with has closed down. The stories don’t add up.
While Mugure investigates, she starts to receive warnings from all sides, telling her to stop asking questions. It’s a firm rule in fiction that when someone tells the protagonist to stop investigating, it’s like catnip and the protagonist must find out what’s going on. Eventually, she ends up flying to Kenya and uncovering a scandalous surrogate pregnancy scheme and worse.
This could have a been a much better book if it had more depth. Descriptions are brief or nonexistent. Plot zips by without introspection. Motivations remain unexamined. Cultural, racial, and biological rifts stay unmined. Even the betrayals and reversals don’t shock because there is so much foreshadowing that you know what’s coming well in advance.