Chapter 16 to 18 Summary of Elma Shaw’s Redemption Road

In Chapter 16 of Redemption Road, Bendu is still in the captivity of Moses Varney who pushes her towards the ocean.

Chapter 16 to 18 Summary of Redemption Road
Chapter 16 to 18 Summary of Redemption Road

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

Chapter 16 Summary

In Chapter 16 of Redemption Road, Bendu is still in the captivity of Moses Varney who pushes her towards the ocean. She fears that Varney might drown or shoot her. Varney sits her down facing the ocean. He warns her not to scream.

Varney unties Bendu’s blindfold but warns her not to look back. Bendu looks around the unidentified beach and sees a large ship on the horizon. She smells marijuana on Cobra and realises she’s in trouble. Varney holds a gun on Bendu. He gives her two choices: either she dies or she drops charges against him. In his words,


“I could kill you right now and throw you in the water. Or you could drop the charges tomorrow.”

(p. 98, Redemption Road)

Bendu accuses Varney of ruining her life by giving her to Samson. Varney admits he could have killed her earlier but chose not to. He explains his own struggles and aspirations. He says he is haunted by “more demons” (p. 98) in his nightmares too, that he neither wanted to be in the bush to be a fighter nor a killer. He talks about how he had studied “business administration at LU” and “wanted to become a labor lawyer someday” before the war messed up his dreams and aspirations.

He claims no one is innocent during the war-time; that he had given Bendu to Samson in order for her to survive. Bendu, however, insists that Samson abused her, but Varney refuses to be held responsible for whatever that had transpired between Bendu and Samson.

Bendu notes that Varney hasn’t changed one bit because he still uses violence to get what he wants. When Varney realises that Bendu is not backing down on his issue anytime soon, he decides to resort to blackmail. He threatens to tell her family and friends the atrocities she committed during the war; how she had killed just like him. Bendu, however, claims Varney made her do those things; that he would have killed her if she had refused.

The two go back and forth on whether or not Bendu will drop the charges against Varney. Bendu notices that Varney’s driver has left the vicinity and disappeared behind trees. She decides to capitalize on the disappearance of the driver. She widens her eyes and fixes her gaze on the direction the taxi driver took. Cobra turns around to see what has caught Bendu’s attention. He asks about the whereabout of the driver. Knowing that Varney is under the influence of marijuana, Bendu lies to Varney that he had shot the taxi driver. Varney is momentarily distracted, which allows Bendu to turn the table around. She attacks him and knocks him unconscious. She had been taught the technique she used on Varney at Duluma training camp. She grabs his gun and levels it at the taxi driver who had run towards her.

The driver pleads with her and tells her “Nothing’s spoiled” (p. 103). He brings out a knife from Varney’s pocket with which he cuts the cloth that tied her hands together. Afterwards, Bendu takes the car key from the driver and leaves the car behind, as she heads towards safety before Moses Varney regains consciousness. She jogs to Tubman Boulevard, and avoids bushy shortcuts along the way so she wouldn’t be mistaken for a thief.

Redemption Road
Redemption Road by Elma Shaw

Chapter 17 Summary

Bendu arrives at Calvin’s place, eye swollen shut and the side of her head bleeding. Calvin is surprised to see Bendu in that pitiable state. Bendu tells him Varney did this to her. Varney attends to her bleeding head with a towel. At first, he wants to go to the beach in pursuit of Varney, with a gun tucked in the waistband of his pants, but Bendu insists she does not want any more violence.  So, Calvin takes her to Catholic Hospital instead for immediate treatment, while she fills him in with details of her encounter with Varney and the break-in at her apartment.

On their way to the hospital, Bendu asks Calvin to call Siatta to bring some clothes for her. She, however, does not want him to call Agnes because she thinks Agnes will say she brought this on herself. At the hospital, the gash on her head is stitched. She is eventually admitted to the hospital and attended to by Dr. Wamah.

Later on, Siatta and Terrance arrive at the hospital. Terrance threatens to deal with Varney. He is going to throw Varney in prison when they catch him. Siatta, on her part, insists that Bendu stay with her and her husband at their house in Mamba Point for better security. Although Bendu wants to protest against this decision citing she has to go to work, everyone in the hospital ward agrees that her house is not safe until Varney is apprehended by the police.

Calvin receives a call from Lieutenant Tarpeh. Calvin had reported the incident to Tarpeh when they got to the hospital and told him about the taxi at the beach behind Sophie’s used by Varney to abduct Bendu. Now, Tarpeh has called to inform Calvin that the car is not there. The group in the ward discusses possible reasons for the missing car.

Even on hospital bed, Bendu is worried about missing work. She insists on not missing work despite her condition. Here, the novelist portrays her as a workaholic, who is at the same time dedicated to her NGO. She is anxious to leave the hospital as soon as possible. Bendu expresses frustration with the broken system in the country, but unlike others in the room, she is optimistic that the country can become better again. She, however, is clear about one thing: she doesn’t want to be part of an irreparable broken system.

Calvin asks Bendu what Varney wants from her. She tells him Varney wanted her to drop the charges. Terrance tells her to drop the charges if that’s what it’ll take to get Varney off her back. Bendu tells them she considered dropping the charges for a second but then, she couldn’t because Varney threatened to reveal her past actions in Duluma. Siatta becomes alarmed and asks Bendu about what she did in the past. Bendu prepares to tell her story to the group.

Chapter 16 to 18 Summary of Redemption Road
Chapter 16 to 18 Summary of Redemption Road

Chapter 18 Summary

Chapter 18 of Redemption Road marks the end of part one of the novel, which is titled “Time Heals Nothing.” In this chapter, Bendu talks about her time in Duluma rebel camp. She tells Calvin and her family how she was conscripted into the Women’s Auxiliary, a combat training group, soon after she arrived at Duluma camp. She endured tough routines. She woke up early daily for chores and combat drills.

She endured beatings from her husband Samson, especially when he’s intoxicated. She only found solace when he was away fighting. She bonded with other women in the camp like Hannah and Oretha, Ma Musu’s daughters. She learnt survival skills and traditional cooking from the women, who had come to love her and regard her as,

. . . the Congo girl who worked right alongside them drawing water, chopping wood, burning coal, washing clothes, and helping them write letters in search of missing loved ones.

(p. 116, Redemption Road)

She also tells her family how she has become somewhat of a hero for hurting Samson’s eye so badly during her first night with him. This earned her the war name Lieutenant TKO. She also witnessed scarcity of food and frequent domestic violence in the camp. Commander Cobra and his group committed atrocities like torturing prisoners of war, and gang-raping women in the camp’s torture chamber infamously name The Oven. She worried about the fate of Cousin Orlando who had been taken away as a prisoner of war.

In her fourth month in Duluma camp, Bendu discovered she was pregnant. She was sad that she was “pregnant with a madman’s child” (p. 118). She avoided abortion and hoped for a miscarriage as she resumed combat training drills.

Samson reacted angrily to the pregnancy. He left the camp when Bendu’s pregnancy became six months. Bendu faced eviction from the house she lived in with Samson after he had left. But she defied Commander Cobra’s indirect order that she vacate the house for another high-ranking rebel fighter.

She gave birth to a baby girl whom she couldn’t care for. She refused to nurse the baby during the first two weeks she had for recovery. As a result, Ma Musu gave the baby to another woman to take care of during this period. By the end of the fourteenth day, Bendu abandoned her baby at the camp and left a note for Hannah and Oretha.

As she narrates her Duluma experiences to her immediate family and friends, right on that hospital bed, she is haunted by thoughts of her abandoned daughter’s fate. She wonders if Bébé had died or is still alive. In the case of the latter, the girl will be nine years at the moment. She wonders about her family’s reaction, and if Calvin will desert her for abandoning her baby.

She silently appreciates people like Agnes who care for abandoned children. The room falls silent after she finishes relating her story. Afterwards, Calvin storms out of the room emotionally.

Other Chapters:

Further Reading:

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