In the Shadow of a Saint

Publisher: Vintage Canada
In late 1995, the little-known Ogoni region in Nigeria became a fable for our times. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a renowned poet and environmentalist, was campaigning to protect his Ogoni people against the encroachments of Shell Oil and a brutal dictatorship. He was imprisoned, tortured, brought to trial on trumped-up charges, and executed.

At the heart of the public campaign to save Ken Saro-Wiwa was another Ken Wiwa—the author's son—who travelled the world lobbying world leaders and mobilizing public opinion, so that his father was recognized as a hero and a symbol of the struggle for environmental justice. The Saro-Wiwa name became global currency for righteousness.

Ken Wiwa has embarked on a book that tells the story—from a human, anecdotal perspective—of what it means to grow up as a child in the shadow of such extraordinary men and women. In the end, it's about Ken's attempts to make peace with himself and his father—following his journey as he reaches toward a final rendezvous with the father who was snatched by the hangman.


My father. Where does he end and where do I begin? I seem to have spent my whole life chasing his shadow, trying to answer the questions that so many fathers pose to their sons. Is my life predetermined by his? My future defined by my past? Is his story repeating itself through me, or am I the author of my own fate? Is he...
Read More


"Your book is rivetting, searingly honest and deeply moving.It is a splendid monument to an outstanding man, warts and all." —Desmond Tutu

"Ken Wiwa leaves no holds unbarred in his account of his father's remarkable life and appalling death. It's a searing personal and political document." —Harold Pinter

“His book is at once a tough indictment of the Nigerian government and the oil industry, and an intense and moving tale of a young man’s struggle to make peace with his father….Exceptionally — sometimes bracingly — frank.” —Toronto Life

In The Shadow of a Saint is a stirring work that will resonate with you long after you close the book and a reminder on the anniversary of Saro-Wiwa’s death that the word really can be more powerful than the sword.” —Eye

“The straightforward honesty of Ken Wiwa’s account is the book’s shining merit. Not only is Ken Wiwa searching for the man his father was, he is also striving to unearth the truth of his own fraught relationship with him….And it is entirely fitting that it is by an act of writing that Ken Wiwa finally slips out of the long shadow that Ken Saro-Wiwa cast, to become his own man and , moreover, someone of whom I am sure his father would have been intensely proud.” —The Globe and Mail

“The story of his final hours is one of the most memorable in the book, not only because it is written by his son, but because it is written with a detachment and calm that amplifies both the horror of the death and the dignity and defiance of the victim. It must have taken great strength to write those pages. Ken Saro-Wiwa would surely be proud.” —The Edmonton Journal

“Ken Wiwa has written a powerful and thought-provoking account of his father. It is, above all, an extremely honest book, with no attempts to conceal the warts.” —The Financial Times (UK)

“Ken Wiwa does not spare himself in this story. He reveals self-truths he is not proud of. You feel for him. You feel for his father. His elegantly written book is a weave of Nigerian and family history, both turbulent, both tragic, neither without hope. The book is also a song of the Ogoni people, a tribute to their struggle, their endurance…. Poignant.” —The Guardian

“[An] inquiring biography…Wiwa handles plenty of confusion and guilt with aplomb…Wiwa’s childhood recollections are ambivalent: he describes his nervousness and self-consciousness around his father, his sense of always trailing in his footsteps…until this biography, that is — its voice very much his own, as is its political verve. Insightful chapters on the children of Nelson Mandela and Stephen Biko add poingnancy and depth to Wiwa’s personal exploration.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"In the Shadow of a Saint is a memoir, a biography, a political history, a tribute to a political martyr and a love letter to a father." — The Toronto Star

"[Wiwa] has produced a fascinating account of his troubled homeland, and a touching portrait of his talented father." — Maclean's