Excerpt from Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi X
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    May 2017, 446 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Buddu Province, Buganda
The Moon of Gatonya, 1750

The party formed a snaking retinue. They walked downhill from Kintu's courtyard, through cultivated plots on his land, past silent shadowy houses until they came to the bottom near the well where village residents collected water. The moon, as if shy, still hid behind a cloud. But midnight darkness was beginning to loosen. Kintu looked in the distance but the night yielded no horizon. Yet to him, the landscape was clear. He knew every rise and fall in the earth, every bush and thicket and every old tree intimately.

By the time the party came to Nswera, a large stream that cut Kiyirika Village off from the rest of Buddu Province, the fireflies had gone to sleep. The moon now tailed them at a distance like a nosy little brother. It was good timing, the walkers needed light to cross the swamp. Nswera was in a huge basin: its edges were steep while the bottom was flat.

Ten men descended into the swamp before Kintu allowed his sons to follow. Inside the swamp, the snores of nature filled the air. Leaves rustled and insects whistled. Closer to the stream, frogs croaked as if hired to perform. The party crossed the stream without a problem and took on the incline to climb out. By the time everyone got out, the moon had drawn closer. Suddenly, Babirye, like an owl, swooped and perched into Kintu's mind. She loomed large and dark. Kintu contemplated her for a moment then dismissed her.

Four hours later, they were inside Nabweteme, a dense rain forest. The moon, now huge and low, sailed close to the canopy. Its light streaked through the trees. The forest was silent. When Kintu looked up again, the moon was racing ahead as if it had lingered too long in their company. He saw it sink behind the trees and thought, this is how we grow old: by letting the moon and the sun overtake us.

The first part of the forest came to an abrupt end and they broke out into a clearing. Daybreak lay in the distance. Kintu was peering at it when he felt cold air on his head, as if his hair had been swept off. He held his breath—there was no tension among his men. Were they being stalked? But the party was too large to be attacked by wild animals. His mind raced back home to his family but he felt no danger there either. Yet he was certain that something was wrong. He asked his sons, Kalema and Baale, who now trailed somewhere in the party behind him to walk close to him.

The horizon cracked into scarlet rays. The party had a few precious minutes to enjoy sunrise before entering the second phase of the forest.

Kintu's mind strayed to his wives, Babirye and Nnakato. He would rather have dealt with mutiny in his army than with Babirye, even though she was a replica of his beloved Nnakato. He never wanted to keep two women in the same house in the first place, not even identical twins.

Tradition claimed that identical twins were one soul who, failing to resolve the primal conflict in the self, split—and two people were born. The older twin, Babirye for girls, was supposedly the original soul. Nnakato, the younger twin, was the copy, the mutineer. But Kintu could not see how this could be true of his wives. For him, Nnakato was the original. Rather than being selfish, Nnakato was the pacifier who always allowed Babirye to have her own way. Surely it had to be Babirye who had fallen out with Nnakato. She had pushed and shoved until Nnakato stepped out of the way. Babirye was born first and became the dominant twin thereafter.

They were inside the second part of the forest. The foliage was wet as if it had just rained. The canopy blocked the early sun. Still, Kintu could see well. Huge mahogany trees rose and soared, splitting into a canopy of dense branches. The shrubs below were lanky, making thin undergrowth. The forest floor was carpeted in a thick layer of decomposing leaves. Tiny hard black seeds littered the ground. Once in a while, they came upon an ancient tree with roots wide and webbed above the ground that towered over the men.

From Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. By arrangement with Transit Books. Copyright © Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi 2017. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  A Brief History of Uganda

Join BookBrowse

For a year of great reading
about exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Loved and Missed
    by Susie Boyt
    London-based author and theater director Susie Boyt has written seven novels and the PEN Ackerley ...
  • Book Jacket: Beyond the Door of No Return
    Beyond the Door of No Return
    by David Diop
    In early 19th-century France, Aglaé's father Michel Adanson dies of old age. Sitting at ...
  • Book Jacket: Crossings
    by Ben Goldfarb
    We've all seen it—a dead animal carcass on the side of the road, clearly mowed down by a car. ...
  • Book Jacket: Wifedom
    by Anna Funder
    When life became overwhelming for writer, wife, and mother Anna Funder in the summer of 2017, she ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Fair Rosaline
by Natasha Solomons
A subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Digging Stars
    by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

    Blending drama and satire, Digging Stars probes the emotional universes of love, friendship, family, and nationhood.

  • Book Jacket

    Devil Makes Three
    by Ben Fountain

    A brilliant and propulsive novel set in Haiti from the award-winning, bestselling author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.

Win This Book
Win Moscow X

25 Copies to Give Away!

A daring CIA operation threatens chaos in the Kremlin. But can Langley trust the Russian at its center?



Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.