Simple plots explore heavy themes about East African residents

Wednesday May 18 2022
The book cover of ‘’It Can't Be True’’ by author John R.P. Mwakyusa.

The book cover of ‘’It Can't Be True’’ by author John R.P. Mwakyusa. PHOTO | CAROLINE ULIWA | NMG


For the residents of East African cities, the past three decades have brought economic and social changes to how they live, work, play and communicate with each other and the rest of the world.

In his novel It Can’t be True, author John Mwakyusa threads stories of middle-class East Africans, the captains of urbanisation, and how they are linked to humble beginnings tied to our shared history rooted in slavery and later colonisation.

These heavy topics are covered in the 124-page paperback. Although the book is a quick read, the plot could have been more tightly woven to make the story smooth.

The book centres around four main characters. Albert, Sharon, Paul and Esther.

Albert, in his late 30s, was orphaned at the age of 10. He is now a spy working for the government of Uganda. The novel is set in Uganda with a short section taking place in Tanzania in the region of Ruvuma. Albert is tasked with investigating a murder of a prominent lawyer.

His investigation allows us to meet Sharon and Paul, a couple at Makerere University, pursuing their first degrees. Paul is a Tanzanian on a government scholarship. He had planned on becoming a pastor, but abandoned his dream to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering.


Sharon is studying medicine and has ties with Paul, Albert and the murdered lawyer. The author weaves their stories to shed light on a love triangle. He also explores the hypocrisy of men committing to one woman on one side while still pursing relationships with other partners.

The author, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, uses simple plots to explore the themes of illicit financial flows in the region. The dangers of religious fanaticism and mental health are also covered.