'A Grain of Wheat' centers on Kenya's Uhuru, its attainment of independence and self-government, a time of celebration and pride. But Thiong'o uses it as a backdrop for a dark drama that is anything but celebratory. It is bleak and difficultly written. The first time I tried to read it I couldn't become immersed in it the way one should, but it is worth the effort.
The village of Thabai is to host a ceremony for Uhuru and the elders decide that since a famous local hero Kihika was killed in the struggle for freedom, a friend of his, Mugo should sppeak for him. Mugo is a solitary man and his silence and hesitation to accept the honor intrigues the villagers and like Singer in 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter', confide in him and resurrect in Mugo's memories the horrors that were perpetrated against him, other Kenyans and what they inflicted upon themselves in the name of survival and security.