Book Review: Place of Cool Waters

Book Cover Images image of Place of Cool Waters

by Ndirangu Githaiga

    Publication Date: Aug 09, 2022
    List Price: $14.99
    Format: Paperback, 262 pages
    Classification: Fiction
    ISBN13: 9781735041742
    Imprint: Bon Esprit Books
    Publisher: Bon Esprit Books
    Parent Company: Bon Esprit Books, LLC

    Read a Description of Place of Cool Waters

    Book Reviewed by Michael A. Gonzales

    As a book critic, I rarely know what to expect when handed a project to review. There are veteran writers who drop projects that make me question who exactly thought these words were worthy of publication, a relatively new scribe can surprise me with their originality. Thankfully, author Ndirangu Githaiga falls into the latter category with his latest novel Place of Cool Waters. Though Githaiga has published two novels (The People of Ostrich Mountain, 2020) and Ten Thousand Rocks, 2021), his latest book was my introduction to his poetic prose that takes the reader on many unexpected journeys as seen through the eyes of his characters.

    For a book that literally begins with the end of someone’s life, a suicide off a bridge in Minneapolis, Place of Cool Waters is filled with much hope and promise. Seconds after the unfortunate death, a baby is found in a box by two homeless people who take the child to the hospital and hope that he’ll wind up in loving hands. Fortunately, the baby is adopted by Doris and Tom Wilson, a professional as well as religious couple from Clarksville (a fictional town), Washington. Doris decides to name the kid Jude, and it is from his point of view that most of the narrative is told.

    Though the Black family is a true minority in that lily-white town that seems to be as idyllic as a Hallmark movie, thankfully the Wilson family doesn’t have to deal with racism on any level. Indeed, in addition to Tom Wilson being a respected educator, he is also a respected Boy Scout leader whose genuine love and respect for the founder Robert Baden-Powell, who is buried in Africa, sets the story motion. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in the African city of Nairobi, an alternative narrative is told by Qadir Mohamed, another orphan with an interesting life.

    What I enjoyed most about Githaiga’s style is how he guides the reader through the regular lives of his characters that focuses heavily on their family, friends, and job situations. What might be trite or even boring, in the hands of a less-skillful scribe, he makes into a discovery. There is a true richness to the storytelling as well as the secondary characters in the lives of both Jude and Qadir. Their family and friends never feel like filler, and often save the main characters from dire situations.

    However, there times when I wanted to shake Jude out of his extreme naïveté when he faces office racism or some of his bonehead decisions when he finally makes that trip to the Motherland. The writer also does drama (as well as melodrama) well, often putting Jude and Qadir in scary scenes we’re not sure they’ll be able to escape from.

    While Githaiga isn’t preachy, I did learn a lot from Place of Cool Waters especially about the Boy Scouts (I used to be one) and politics in Kenya, where one day all is well and the next the citizens are thrown into chaotic conditions. Though Place of Cool Waters could have stood tighter editing in places, overall it’s quite an engaging book and I look forward to reading more of Ndirangu Githaiga’s novels.

    Read Bon Esprit Books’s description of Place of Cool Waters.
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