BOOK NOOK: ‘What a Husband!’ by Mwangi Ruheni

Tuesday November 21 2017

If you have read Mwangi Ruheni’s the Minister’s

If you have read Mwangi Ruheni’s the Minister’s Daughter and the Love Root, would be highly interested in What a Husband! PHOTO| BENSON MWANGI 

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If you have read Mwangi Ruheni’s the Minister’s Daughter and the Love Root, would be highly interested in What a Husband! a suspenseful, amusing page turner and the kind of read you want when feeling down on a dreary day.

First published in 1973, What a Husband! in characteristic Mwangi Ruheni literary style, makes the most of the first person narration, humour and vivid descriptions.


Dennis Kinyua is an educated, suit-cladding adventurous marketing assistant with an oil company.

He is married to Rita Wanja, a teacher and the couple have three daughters, a house help and houseboy.

They live in a government house in Westlands, Nairobi and his salary might not make him rich, but definitely allow him to pretend to be and appear like one.

His car apparently has seen better days but serves him well, particularly once you begin to get the kind of adventures Kinyua is always throwing himself in while in a drunken stupor without skipping a heartbeat.


The book begins almost at the middle when an inebriated Kinyua arrives home late in the night as usual with a broken car that barely makes it home.

Apparently, he had fallen into a ditch and suffered into some misfortune that mercilessly follows him home in a marriage-wrecking fury.

It is a Sunday morning and as usual the car is used to take his family to church.

That morning after the road accident he is woken up by a frantic, irate Rita with a female shoe in one hand and an earring on the other.

She demands to know who they belong to, including an explanation of a feminine perfume oozing out of the broken mechanical contraption in their garage.


Mwangi Ruheni then takes you through an entertaining and amusing tale worth reading any time. From the moment he laid his eyes on the beautiful Rita with sweet lips and shy eyes to his funny courtship and dowry events.

Love draws the smitten bachelor living and working in Nairobi to Nyeri to woo a lovely schoolteacher.?

For a married man with a secure job, beautiful wife, three lovely girls, a government home and happy household you would expect Kinyua to be contented with his life.

Nevertheless, his constant escapades in search of bar action to liven up his days with his favourite vodka and ginger ale or a cold beer and unabashed eye for the illicit charm of the opposite sex soon become his undoing.

His wife is also giving birth to daughters and he cannot throw out of his mind the idea of what a small male version of himself would look like. This also weighs down on his wife who terribly feels she is disheartening her husband every time she juts out of the hospital welding a baby girl.


Kinyua is all set for his usual adventures when his wife is in hospital recuperating after giving birth. Every time he is out drinking with friends, beer buddies and total strangers they talk of their grand investments.

Land buying, property development and other money-making ventures that seemingly are going very well.

In his mind, Kinyua believes these people cannot be doing such grand investments with their meagre salaries just like his. The tattlers and profiteers are almost certainly into corrupt and illegal deals. ?His financial shape is not too good. He is ready to immerse himself in anything legal or otherwise that would enable him climb up the wealth tree rapidly.


When he is drunk and mischievous, Kinyua has a way of putting some effort to improve things that look good. One night he is drunk, broke and in the mood for mischief. He meets an attractive barmaid called Ada Muthoni in a local bar and jabbers some meaningless request seemingly borne of a desire for drunken lasciviousness when she refuses his advances. Astonishingly, she seems to understand him very well.? He pretends to be a foreigner from Ghana seeking “some black beauties, the type that dazzles you. The type that shines during the day and during the night”.


He is astonished and anxious with adventure as the girl hails a taxi for him by night and soon he finds himself in the innermost parts of Eastleigh. He meets a man and his wife and two accomplices in a lavish, well-furnished home and the reality of his meaningless jabber about black beauties that really dazzle dawns on him; gems and expensive trinkets he has never set eyes on are laid before him. Soon the night and his life henceforth will change from being adventurous and forward-looking for a broke man with less than one pound in his wallet to one of steep jeopardy and malevolent schemes. ?

From being threatened with gunshots, hacked and dumped in two sacks somewhere in the Mathare Valley into a well-oiled, handsomely rewarding, secretive illegal gem smuggling ensemble that has no qualms finishing off a perceived spy or recruiting ordinary employed executives and civil servants into precious stones racketeers.? His cunning, devious mind will get him into trouble, worsen his marital problems, unite him unexpectedly with presumably dead kin, garnish him with a ticket to an interesting village that doesn’t exist on the map, recruit him into a police snitch, and rove him across the country in a spin of an adventure with all manner of revelations beyond his wildest dreams.

Mwangi Ruheni’sWhat A Husband! is a superb read with a fast-moving plot.

Memorable yarns, droll accounts and a readable entertaining tome that reads like Wahome Mutahi’s Whispers adventures in words and accounts will be a pleasant peep into the ever-green golden pop-fiction era of the 1970s.


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