Chapter 6 to 10 Summary of Elma Shaw’s Redemption Road

She has resolved to prosecute Commander Cobra for what he did to her, and his other war crimes. Agnes tries to warn her

Chapter 6 to 10 Summary of Redemption Road
Chapter 6 to 10 Summary of Redemption Road

In this post, we are going to summarise Elma Shaw’s Liberian post-war novel, Redemption Road, from chapters six to ten.

Chapter 6 Summary

The following day when Agnes comes for Bendu, she answers the door, dressed and smiling. She has resolved to prosecute Commander Cobra for what he did to her, and his other war crimes. Agnes tries to warn her that it might be impossible, but she insists.

The two women ride together in a chartered taxi to Peace in Practice. Before they open the office door, Agnes tells Bendu that she has informed Calvin and Siatta about Bendu’s encounter with Cobra and they are already waiting to help. This does not go well with Bendu. Her sister, Siatta, becomes annoyed with Bendu’s response and expresses a desire to leave. Calvin intervenes to calm Siatta down and tells her that Bendu needs her family around her right now, even if she doesn’t want to admit it.


They convene in Bendu’s office where Calvin questions Bendu about Commander Cobra. Bendu admits to being too afraid of Cobra to gather any information about the details of his car. Calvin suggests arranging security for Bendu’s protection.

Bendu tells them of her plan to find Cobra and bring him to justice. Again, Agnes expresses her doubt about the feasibility of Bendu’s plan. But Siatta supports her sister’s decision. She wonders why Sierra Leoneans “sat there and let illiterate ragtag hoodlums, fighters, and children rob, rape and kill” them for so many years (p. 39). Agnes snaps at her that she ran away to America and did not have a firsthand experience of what happened during the war; so, she will never understand. Siatta claims that she would never have allowed anyone to take her dignity or life. But Agnes dismisses her with the claim that she “had absolutely no idea what it was like” (p. 39). Calvin cuts into the argument to prevent it from escalating. He talks about how Bendu needs security at that point because they cannot tell what action Cobra might take if he discovers that Bendu is looking for him.

(Siatta would change her views about those that stayed behind and witnessed the war after her firsthand experience of the intense fighting in Gardnersville in Chapter 32 of Redemption Road.)

Siatta suggests they hire an artist to draw Cobra’s picture to make a WANTED poster. But Calvin dismisses the idea and promises to find him. He hopes Cobra doesn’t try anything stupid or he would have him to answer to. His position is not unconnected with Benji’s death and his traumatic experience watching his dear friend killed by army guys in 1980. He now sees in every soldier Benji’s killer. He is determined not to let history repeat itself. Agnes expresses concern over Calvin’s motivations and warns him to be careful in his quest for revenge.

Redemption Road
Redemption Road by Elma Shaw

Chapter 7 Summary

In Chapter 7 of Redemption Road, the narrative shifts to Moses Varney, formerly Commander Cobra. Moses Varney visits the Judiciary chambers for the second time that week. He is welcomed by Judge Dagoseh. He describes the judge as “the most corrupt character in the justice department” (p. 42) but the only one willing to help Varney’s cause.

Moses Varney sees Judge Dagoseh as a symbol of Liberia’s problems, especially with how he uses the power he wields in the courthouse to collect bribes to liberate himself from poverty. Varney bribes the judge who in turn hands him a manilla envelope as he leaves. The encounter between the two characters is purely transactional, which is why Varney is annoyed by the judge’s statement of being “glad to be part of the revolution” (p. 44) after receiving a bribe to that effect.

Another takeaway from this meeting between Varney and Dagoseh is that an impending revolution is implied that would lead to a change of government. The both characters are helping the revolution come to reality. They also have different perspectives about the coming revolution. For Dagoseh, it is a means for his “liberation from poverty” (p. 43) as evident in his collection of bribes to make it happen. For Varney, it is a means of “liberation of the people from tyranny” (p. 43).

Chapter 8 Summary

The search for Commander Cobra has begun. Calvin searches for Commander Cobra at hotels, bars, and nightclubs. Terrance refuses to help find Cobra with his political connections, when asked by his wife, Siatta.

Bendu receives support from Siatta and Agnes as she resumes her normal activities. She, however, keeps having recurring nightmares, chief among which is her failed attempt to escape Duluma camp. She always wakes up before she has to face Cobra and Samson in the nightmare.

A week after her encounter with Cobra, Bendu and Siatta visit Calvin at his Congo Town home. Calvin, Bendu, and Siatta discuss various topics, including war stories and missing people. They talk particularly about “a whole football team they used to sponsor” (p. 46) that went missing. Siatta is optimistic that they will be found but Calvin says it is highly unlikely. He goes on to talk about how the war worked:

“Boys and men were often killed systematically. No warring faction wore uniforms so you didn’t know whose side anyone was on. Every faction feared men that they didn’t know.”

(p. 47, Redemption Road)

Calvin expresses his indifference to the war stories and says that he doesn’t feel any sympathy towards “those people” who suffered displacement and starvation during the war. “Those people” in this context refer to the indigenous Liberians. There have always been ethnic tensions between indigenous Liberians and Americo-Liberians.

Bendu tries to make Calvin see that “those people” are victims of the war, especially the women and children. But Calvin dismisses her claim with the fact that women and children did the most ignominious things during the war in order to survive; that the “most vicious killers during the war were women” (p. 48) and children.

From the turn of their conversations, it is apparent that Calvin is still embittered by what the indigenous Liberians did to them during the 1980 coup; how their grandparents and parents killed President Tolbert and his cabinet ministers; how they witch-hunted and tortured Americo-Liberians; and how, like in the case of Benji, they killed Americo-Liberians. While Bendu is shocked that Calvin could be so cold-hearted, Calvin remains unsympathetic towards whatever happened to the native people. He believes they deserved everything that came their way during the civil war. He sees it as them reaping what their forebears did to the Congo people in 1980. However, Siatta thinks differently. She has done nothing wrong and believes “no individual should be punished for the sins of their ancestors” (p. 50).

Back in her house in the evening, Bendu tries to imbibe Siatta’s philosophy but realises that she is fooling herself, considering what she did and was done to her during the war which her family and friends are still unaware of.

Chapter 9 Summary

Chapter 9 of Redemption Road draws the readers into one of Bendu’s nightmares about her wartime experiences in Duluma camp. It is “the morning after the fighters dragged Bendu Lewis away with them, leaving her grandmother dead by the roadside” (p. 52). That morning, Commander Cobra is seen smoking a giant dujee (marijuana). He cleans his weapon and goes outside to test it on “two unlucky men . . . who didn’t even have time to beg for their lives” (p. 52).

We see Bendu come outside with her swollen eyes to witness the atrocity committed by Cobra. She is as “paralyzed with fear and uncertainty” (p. 52) as everyone else. She takes in the activities of the camp around her. She realises she’s part of a larger group of fighters in the forest. The dead bodies are removed from the camp upon Cobra’s orders.

Bendu goes back into “the large mud house where she had been nursed throughout the night by Hannah and Ma Musu” (p. 53). She asks Ma Musu why Cobra killed those men but she too does not know why. The older woman tends to Bendu’s broken fingers. Ma Musu shares her own tragic story of loss during the war with Bendu. Her village was captured, her husband was killed, her two sons were taken, and she and her two daughters were brought to Duluma camp.

Ma Musu asks about Bendu’s parents and how she and her grandmother got lost from her people in Sumoville. Bendu tells Ma Musu her parents had left for the United States of America in 1990. She recounts her journey with her grandmother during the war. They had gone to spend some time with her grandmother’s cousin, Rebecca Johnson. When they were supposed to live Sumoville for Monrovia, they heard that the rebels were close by. Cousin Rebecca wanted them to stay behind with the rest of the family but Bendu insisted they leave. Her cousin Orlando escorted them to the motor park where they would get their ride to Monrovia. The place was deserted when they got there. After about two hours at the park, some soldiers came in a convoy of vehicles and forcefully took them. Cousin Orlando was thrown in one of their pickups while Bendu and her grandmother were kept in a private car. It was in the car that Bendu inferred that the destruction of Diana Bridge was the reason for the lack of public transportation. When they got Charlue Town, they released Bendu and Granny May but kept Orlando. The people of Charlue Town gave the two women shelter. However, by the end of their first week there, Granny May had lost a lot of weight and could hardly talk, due to the lack of medical care and food. It was at that point that Charlue Town was attacked and she too was taken to Duluma camp.

While Bendu and Ma Musu trade stories, one of the rebel soldiers named Joseph comes for Bendu. He says the commander requests her presence. Commander Cobra questions her about why she insulted him and her fighters the previous night. He tells her she is lucky they did not kill her and he warns her that there’s no place for disrespect in the group. Cobra calls Samson, one of his henchmen. He gives Bendu to Samson as wife. Samson leads Bendu to his hut at knifepoint where he proceeds to rape her. As she spies the knife which Samson has placed on a stool next to his bed, Bendu could not muster the courage to grab it and kill him. She thinks she cannot kill, except that “in the course of the year Bendu would indeed kill” (p. 62). She continually hits Samson’s face and manages to “give him one strong blow to the eye” before he subdues her, “as his eye throbbed and oozed blood from one corner as it swelled shut” (p. 62). He continues to violate her.

Chapter 10 Summary

Bendu wakes up to the sound of pepperbirds. She realises she’s in Monrovia, not Duluma with Samson, and that she has been dreaming all along. She is relieved by this realisation.

Later in the morning, after breakfast, she goes to a nearby supermarket. She hears someone calling her name. Bendu sees Cobra approaching her. She feels unsure and tries to step back. Cobra smiles and calls her “Lieutenant TKO.” He hugs her unexpectedly and asks about her well-being. Bendu hesitantly responds.

Cobra invites her for a drink. She initially considers declining but changes her mind. He tells her he stays at El Meson on Carey Street. He gives her his contact information. Bendu asks him not to call her “Lieutenant TKO,” which was her war name. Cobra recounts how she came about that name which means “Lieutenant Technical Knock-Out.” She was given the name the day after she punched Samson in the eye.

Cobra asks Bendu about her marital status. She answers that she’s still single. He is surprised that she is still single. He mentions having other business to attend to. He reveals his current name as Moses Varney. Bendu watches him leave until he’s out of sight.

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