Blossoms of the Savannah tells the story of the Ole Kaelo family as they relocate from the urban city of Nakuru to the rural town of Nasila in Kenya. The family of four consists of Jane “Mama” Milanoi, Parsimei Ole Kaelo, and their two daughters Taiyo and Resian, the youngest. For Ole Kaelo and Mama Milanoi, the move is a return to their hometown, where they met 20 years ago.
For Taiyo and Resian, the move means leaving the only home they know for life in a rural town. The Kaelo family moves to Nasila because Ole Kaelo is fired from his job as the commercial manager at an agricultural company called Agribix Ltd. Now unemployed, Kaelo moves back to his hometown to open his own business and provide for his family.
The novel opens with Taiyo watching laborers load her family’s belongings into moving trucks. She watches her father scream at the movers and laments the loss of her life in Nakuru. Overlooking her city for the last time, Taiyo considers what the future will hold. (Her dreams of a career in music are stalled after Kaelo forbids her from pursuing an opportunity in Mombasa.) After some brief trouble with one of the moving trucks, the family arrives safely in Nasila. There, they reunite with the other members of the Ilmolelian clan to which the Kaelo family belongs. The extended family includes Kaelo’s younger brother, Simiren, who has acted as head of the family in Kaelo’s absence, as well as Simiren’s four wives and sixteen children.
In stark contrast to the urban soundscape of Nakuru, Taiyo and Resian awaken to the sounds of birds, cattle, and bleating sheep. One of their uncle’s wives invites Taiyo and Resian to breakfast. While walking through the property, the sisters notice that there are four houses. Taiyo infers that the homes probably belong to each of their uncle’s four wives. One of the women introduces herself as “Yeiyoo-botor” (the eldest wife) and proceeds to introduce the girls to their sixteen adolescent cousins.
After a breakfast of tea and bread, Mama Milanoi permits her daughters to explore the neighborhood, but warns them to be careful of strangers. On their way back, the girls are approached by a tall, heavyset man holding a club. The stranger grabs Taiyo’s arm and asks the girls if they are the “intoiye nemengalana” (uncircumcised women) from Nakuru. He intimidates the girls and tells them they have no place in the town. Taiyo and Resian return to their uncle's home but decide not to tell their parents about the encounter, fearing that Kaelo would blame them for traveling into town alone.
Ole Kaelo meets with an old friend, Ole Supeyo, who is now a successful entrepreneur and the largest cattle rancher in Nasila. Before Kaelo moved to Nakuru, he served as Supeyo’s bookkeeper (although he was a shrewd businessman, Supeyo was illiterate and unable to count). Kaelo tells Supeyo that he arranged a large government contract to provide industrial agricultural supplies through a man named Oloisudori. Supeyo warns Kaelo to be wary of Oloisudori and asks if Kaelo is corrupt; Kaelo unconvincingly denies the accusation.
The family moves into their new home in Nasila. Taiyo and Resian begin to unpack the many boxes of their belongings and are surprised to discover that their new home resembles their old flat in Nakuru.
Moving back to Nasila reveals both similarities and differences between the Kaelos and their relatives in Nasila. Unlike Kaelo's brother Simiren, Ole Kaelo and Mama Milanoi break with tradition by moving away and by choosing a monogamous marriage. Yet despite their differences, Kaelo and Simiren’s relationship is one defined by its strength and mutual respect.
The lifestyle choices of the Kaelo family and their decision not to circumcise their daughters, however, become an issue when Resian and Taiyo encounter the stranger while exploring Nasila. The stranger’s remark reflects the town’s rigid expectations for women. Namely, the expectation that women be chaste, deferential, circumcised, and that they become homemakers.
It is also important to note that Kaelo’s relationship with his daughters is asymmetrical. He loves his firstborn daughter, Taiyo, unconditionally, but rejects Resian for being born a girl and robbing him of a male heir and successor. The tense relationship between Resian and her father is largely defined by Resian’s identity and the expectations for how Nasila men and women ought to behave.
Yet, in other ways, the Kaelo family seems to reflect the attitudes of Nasila. Ole Kaelo and Mama Milanoi do not appear to be equal partners in their relationship. Taiyo and Resian (at 20 and 19 years old respectively) are expected to defer to their father in all matters. Ole Kaelo is the patriarch of the family. He makes financial decisions (e.g. the government contract), and he is the architect of his daughters' futures. Kaelo decides whether they will be allowed to follow their passions for music and education, or follow a traditional path of becoming wives and homemakers.
When Taiyo is forbidden from pursuing the musical opportunity at the radio station it raises issues about gender, familial responsibility, and Taiyo and Resian's desire for autonomy and self-determination. These themes, and their impact on Resian and Taiyo’s lives, will inform and motivate the story.