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Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner, the Latest Novel by Award-Winning Author Gerald Everett Jones, Gives You the Right Answer
Kenya is one of the places that ignite our imagination just by hearing its name. We picture gorgeous sunsets and wide savannahs, where wild and majestic creatures roam freely. However, there is much more to this rich and multi-faceted country with so much growth potential. While locals see it as a land of corruption, for expats it can be the ideal setting for finally finding purpose and love. Gerald Everett Jones’ Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner is a must-read for each and every one of us day-dreaming about Africa.
Set for release on June 29th, 2021, Jones’ eleventh novel is literary fiction with geopolitical overtones, reminiscent of The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene and The Constant Gardener by John le Carré.
Kenya seen through the eyes of an American middle-aged widower
Locals tease main character Harry Gardner with the surname “Harambee,” the Kenyan national motto meaning something like, One for All. He’s not sure whether that means he’s being played. He is a lonely widower from Los Angeles who has bought a tour package to East Africa on the promise of hookups and parties. What he finds instead are new reasons to live.
Slick Italian tour operator Aldo Barbieri convinces Harry to join a group of adventuresome “voluntourists.” In a sleepy resort town on the white sands of the Indian Ocean, Harry doesn’t find the promised excitement with local ladies. But in the supermarket he meets Esther Mwemba, a demure widow who works as a bookkeeper. The attraction is strong and mutual, but Harry gets worried when he finds out that Esther and Aldo have a history. They introduce him to Victor Skebelsky, rumored to be the meanest man in town. Skebelsky has a plan to convert his grand colonial home and residential compound into a rehab center – as a tax dodge. The scheme calls for Harry to head up the charity. He could live like a wealthy diplomat and it won’t cost him a shilling!
Harry has to come to terms with questions at the heart of his character: Is corruption a fact of life everywhere? Is all love transactional?
An entertaining and thought-provoking read
Desmond Boi, editorial writer for The Standard newspapers and Citizen TV in Nairobi has gone so far as to suggest that the book could be disruptive – in a positive way – among Kenyans. He writes: “Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner is a captivating, witty read that explores the sociopolitical climate in Kenya in an honest way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. This is a clear and compelling outlook that realistically paints Kenya while exploring glaring issues that are a bane to the country. When Harry decides to stop being a bystander who lets other people decide his fate, it’s noteworthy. This can be equated to Kenyans finally deciding to take responsibility rather than just going with the flow, waiting for decisions that affect their lives to be made for them. And it can be done without selling one’s soul in the process and leave a legacy and a better country worthy of its name.” (Kenyan general elections are slated for August of 2022, and campaigning is already underway.)
Life in Kenya
Gerald Everett Joneslived in Kenya for two years. He went there to support his wife’s work in wildlife conservation and child welfare. They lived in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi, for several months and then moved to the small resort town of Diani Beach on the Indian Ocean just south of Mombasa, the country’s huge port city.
The author confesses that much like his main character, Harry Gardner, he went there not knowing what to expect.
“Like him, for much of the time I was passive. I let things happen to me and I observed. As for my daily life, I chatted up new friends, continued to write several books, and started this one. I found Kenyans to be warm and generous. However, many of them confessed to me that they delight in gaming each other, and they’re not shy when they talk about it.”
The novel came as a result of him growing into loving Kenya and having to make a huge cultural adjustment. The author confesses that he now views his life and world events with a more Kenyan mindset – pragmatic, amused, cautious.
“Among other lessons learned, I appreciate that gossip is news. Read the papers and the posts, certainly. But if you want to know what’s really going on – what people are worried about – take a ride a taxi or tuk-tuk and open your ears,” says Jones
An immersion into the human soul
Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner isn’t a story of heroes and villains. Yes there is love and corruption and racism in the book. However, the characters are flawed people, as are all of us, trying to make the best of their situations one day at a time. And like all of us, they need to decide what really matters and when to take action.
Jones explains, “Harry gets drawn into a scheme, and he worries he’s getting played. But then he has to ask himself, “Do I mind?” No one is out to hurt him, and his life is suddenly more interesting. He’s found the two things he didn’t have back home—affection and purpose.”
Harry Harambee’s Kenyan Sundowner is available for pre-order on Amazon in paperback and digital formats.