The novel is more about the personal life of Vikram Lall, from childhood during the Mau Mau uprising in 1950s, to rise to become the "most corrupt man in Kenya", to exile in Canada, and then brief return (and possible death, ambiguous). The plot focuses on relationships, between Vikram and his sister Deepa, their common childhood friend (and Deepa's lover, Njoroge), Vikram's parents, his in-laws. Vikram's children are completely absent, though (almost as if the author got tired of having to develop characters)!
While I read the whole book, I have to confess I was pretty indifferent. It is well-written, but it never builds to a gripping emotional climax. Deepa makes a shocking confession at the end, but the reader's reaction is ho-hum. I am not sure why I was so little invested in the characters. Vassanji's has Vikram be the first person narrator, and adopt a clinical, detached tone. So part of the novel's conceit is that detachment. And Vassanji repeatedly draws the reader back to the childhood trauma of a Mau Mau atrocity. But that feels cheap: only a handful of Europeans were killed during Mau Mau, and to build the book on the effects of this one single, very dramatic event... well so many other characters seemed to pop up with more interesting stories. I guess that is the hard part of novel-writing: the reader wants a story, the novelist wants a challenge. This novel really is the challenge of making the reader interested in the life of a rather boring person.
There's a lot about Kenya in the novel, so definitely for the Africanist it is worth the read (especially since I had earlier read Wangari Maathai's Unbowed, about the same epoch in Kenya, and Maathai's silences are very interesting.)
Overall, if you want a quiet, slow novel, or are interested in the construction of Indian/African identity in Kenya/Tanzania, this novel is probably great. A positive review by Helon Habila is here.