Bound by the Absence of Love – by Elena Njeru

In an African context, alcoholism in men is not something that is dissected and analyzed enough to warrant a call for change on the man’s part. Not yet. A man who has a wife, children, a home, an income and a drinking-buddy is a man with a complete life. A man who drinks too much could even be blamed on a bad, nagging or neglectful who makes him hide at the bar, in alcohol. It could even be said that he would stop drinking if he married a good wife, but now he cannot, because he is sacrificing his life to provide for his children with the bad wife. Other men come for him every day to take him away from the stressful home, from the bad wife – the take him to the bar and buy him alcohol to distract him from his problems. When such a man later kills himself as alcoholism and the ensuing depression consumes him, the death is blamed on the bad wife.

Rarely is the death of an alcohol addict blamed on the alcohol.

If a woman drinks alcohol too often, or drinks too much occasionally, the society around her notices, labels her with titles that require the society to act – to make her stop drinking, or ostracize her from the community of good people. Because drinking alcohol makes her a bad woman, a prostitute, a bad mother, a destroyer of families. The death of an alcoholic woman will be blamed on the alcohol, not on the husband – even if he was a bad husband. A drinking woman will ruin herself first, her life, and ruin her family – by the end she will be ostracized from her community.

An African man will drink until he has destroyed his family, his village and the relationships of the people that surround him. As long as he can laugh like a man, talk like a man, walk like a man and act like a man – the patriarchal society will embrace him, protect him, defend his right to his wife, house, land and children – without helping him save his life.

Bound by the Absence of Love is a book about alcoholism in a Kenyan setting, alcoholism that escalates over time, across generations and family lines – until it ends in destruction and generational trauma. It is a story of love in all its complex forms – both as Lini loves her father, and as Karani loves Lini. As you read, you will find yourself wondering if there is any love lost between Lini and her mother, and why it is so difficult to define where love ends and duty begins.

This is a book to read slowly, a book to put away so you can care for yourself in-between emotions. As the author, I took many such breaks while writing Bound by The Absence of Love. Some days I couldn’t bear to open it, the pain and despair, the fear of not knowing what would next, the uncertainty. However, every edit, every re-read became a labor of love – and that is why this book really is about love.

Above all else, about our devastating misunderstanding of what love is, our lack of knowledge how to love and the absence or presence of Love in spaces where only love is needed.

Author: Elena Njeru

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