By Florence Mbaya
A journey within is a novel by Kenyan author Florence Mbaya. The storyline revolves around the career life of the leading character in the novel – Monika Saliku. At the beginning of the novel, Monika appears as a fresh graduate hopeful of acquiring a job within the city. On the contrary she lands a job in a remote part of the country. She leaves behind friends such as Stella (her former college mate and best friend) and family such as Miriam (her sister). Having to settle for a career she dislikes (teaching) turns out as the opportunity she needed to have the chance of self-discovery.
As the title of the novel suggests, the novel focuses on Monikas’ journey of self-discovery and insight. On arrival at Kostas Secondary school following her posting, she receives a cold welcome from most of the fellow teachers, among them Max, a male teacher at Kostas Secondary School and later on her lover. Monika and Max later fall in love and start preparing for marriage and movement to Nairobi towards the end of the novel.
Mr. Mulandi is the head-teacher of Kostas Secondary School and falls in love with Monika as soon as she arrives at Kostas. What follows is a silent struggle to between Mulandi and Max, each aspiring to win over Monikas’ heart. In the end, Monika makes up her mind and opts for with Max, after learning of Mr. Mulandis’ undisclosed and scandalous past. She continues communicating with friends and family in Nairobi through writing of letters. On a particular visit to Nairobi during holidays, she finds Stella (her best friend) having settled in marriage and already having delivered a baby.
As Monika settles down at Kostas she encounters different challenges, which lead to her maturity as time progresses. She goes on to lead the schools’ drama club into victory at the national level, after having experienced defeat a year before. By the end of her third year at Kostas Secondary School, Monika comes forth, through the author as a more mature and positive lady in facing the challenges that face her. She is also seen as coming to terms with almost everyone she had not gotten along with at the beginning of her teaching activities. Monika further impacts positively everyone around the school at Kostas. The faculty at Kostas Secondary school laments and feels robbed on an invaluable member, by her departure after her three-year period of service in the school comes to an end.
It eventually turns out that Monika has developed a liking for teaching, and considers it for a career after all. As Monika heads for Nairobi from Kostas, her good performance as a teacher and drama leader precedes her, where a number of school heads in Nairobi would like to have her on board as a member of staff in their schools. She is also pregnant by Max, who rejoices at the thought of becoming a father. The novel comes to an end with much hope being spelt out with regards to Monikas’ future and career. Source: African Literature