Set in a small Kenyan hamlet, Forbidden Fruit follows Ombima and his family after he makes the fateful decision to steal fruit from the garden of Andimi, his boss and the richest man in town. Ombima believed his reasons were good: his family didn’t have enough to eat, and Andimi had so much. But Ombima’s actions set in motion a series of tragedies befalling his family and those around him.
Forbidden Fruit excels in describing the land and cultural setting of the book. One notable scene is a ritual funeral attended by the entire village. Another highlight is a Christmas procession of excited bodies singing and dancing to drum beats and becoming a single entity. The same level of detail, though, does not go into the characters, so I felt some emotional distance from them.
Ultimately, the novel felt very traditional. The characters who accepted their station in life and didn’t desire change, even if their station was poverty and hunger, were spared tragedy and seen as “good.” Those who had ambition or desires that challenged the existing social order were punished through misery, banishment, injury, or death.