Likely Stories : She Would Be King, by Wayétu Moore

Sep 9, 2021

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Few things excite me more than a new author with an inspiring novel.  Wayétu Moore is the founder of One Moore Book and is a graduate of Howard University, Columbia University, and the University of Southern California.  She teaches at the City University of New York’s John Jay College and lives in Brooklyn.  She Would Be King is her first novel.

On a rare occasion, I will begin a review with an inspiring “Author’s Note.”  This note rushed me into an amazing story; it begins here, “When I was a child, my mother cautioned that I should always be kind to cats.  She told me a story that took place in the West African village where my family and I hid during Liberia’s civil war in 1990.  She said: ‘In Lai, there was once an old woman who beat her cat to death.  The cat resurrected and his ghost sat on her roof until the house fell down, killing her.’  Several years ago, I attempted to write a short story about this woman and her notorious death.  I did, and from that death, rather surprisingly, and thankfully, Besa was born.”

The narrator begins, “If she wanted to continue, Besa first had to rid the road of a slow-moving snake.  Greenish brown with golden eyes as difficult to gaze into as the sun, the snake’s body was no different in color from the woods it had crawled from, and it seemed to Besa that the surrounding bushes were jealous of her departure, so they extended their toes to block her path” (9).  Obviously, she is a courageous young woman.

“There were no Vai girls like Besa.  The coastal village of Lai had seen only one woman as cursed—Ol’Ma Famatta—who they say is sitting in the corner of the moon after her hammock flung her there on her [thirty-third] birthday. 

But, even Ol’Ma Famatta’s misfortunate was nothing compared to that of Besa, whose curse was not only her inability to die, but the way death mocked her” (10).  The villagers were skilled in construction.

Continuing, “In the dry season of 1831, there were no wars, and the fish and rice harvests were plenty, During the rainy seasons the children of the village sat with griots to learn the history of their people, as well as count and write, but in the dry season everyone older than five years worked.  Vai boys went to Lake Piso to fish with their fathers, and Vai girls went to the rice farm’ (15).  These hardworking villagers did much the same sort of work to this day.  Ironically, the men fished, and the women gathered seeds.

Despite all the hardships, Besa emerges as a powerful leader.  This amazing tale, She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore, is a story of determination, strength, and some magical realism thrown in int to pot.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and Happy Reading!