Book: Mission by Philip Spirescategories: Book, Fiction, Kenya, Society, Religion, Culture, Development, Identity, Tradition, Change, Modern, Church, Africa
Philip Spiresabout this book: Michael, a missionary priest in Kenya, has just killed Munyasya, a retired army officer. The cars are lined up in front of Kitui's resplendent new cathedral. Michael's is in front, hence the problem with Munyasya. It might have been an accident, but Mulonzya, a politician resentful of the power of foreigners and occupying the car behind, tries to exploit the tragedy for his own ends. The crowd that assembles is sympathetic to his charges.
Boniface, a young church worker, and his wife, Josephine, have just lost their child. They did not make it to the hospital in time, possibly because Michael made a detour to retrieve a letter from the Mission. The couple, along with their child, were rushing to the hospital from their home in Thitani, from where Michael had brought them that morning.
Michael's detour was prompted by his impatience to collect a letter from Janet, a former volunteer teacher who was the priest's neighbour for two years. She herself has been in hospital, but for an abortion in a far away place.
It is the old and now dying man Munyasya who has the last laugh, however. Bedraggled and destitute, he has lived rough for many a year, but he reveals that he was probably in control of events all along. His motives, however, may have been misguided by the pressures of his lifestyle and his life history. He has served many masters in his time. Thirty years on, the same characters find their lives still influenced by his memory.
Mission charts the lives of people who find themselves involved in a momentous event. It discovers how they arrived in that place together and where the event leads them thereafter. Throughout, the culture of people in eastern Kenya, by virtue their own strength of identity, transforms the characters, despite the speed at which the culture is itself changing.
Mission is set in Kitui District in eastern Kenya. The places are all real. The characters and events are fiction, but they are perhaps illustrative of the issues that drive or inhibit social and economic change.
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