This year, the grass grows quickly even though the garden was mowed just a few days ago, yet it’s high enough to hide the worms. I wake up to watch the early birds catching the worm and remind myself to be like the early bird. On the other hand, I am like the grass, soaking in words like sunshine and rain. I’ve been swallowing books whole, devouring them. It’s been a feeding frenzy, reading one book after the other, all within African literature ( i have my reasons) . The movies I watch aren’t African so there; balance is good!
It’s First of July and the summer of reading is official. I missed out last year , I hardly read during summer while busy fulfilling a right of passage. I’m glad it’s different this year! Here is my summer reading list, since i’m not the girl to buy shoes and dresses, I buy books and visit libraries. When I read, I travel someone’s journey with them and remind myself to expect anything! I do have some books on my Kindle for a change. Enjoy my book review as I read on.
It is summer, after all.
Foreign God Inc
The title of Okey Ndibe’s novle ‘Foreign Gods Inc’ brings back memories of traditional satirical folklore and then it gets better once you read the blurb!
I drooled over it and quickly added it to my Amazon shopping basket! You know those moments when you window-shop for books and you save it till you finally do the purchase! Truth be told, I was hopeful that there will be price reduction or at least someone would sell a used copy cheaper. Guess what, it didn’t happen, so I just bought it anyways!
The novel introduces you to ikechukwu Uzondu, Ike for short(pronounced E-kay); an immigrant New York taxi driver whose American Dream has just gone off beam despite successfully completing his studies in Economics. However, he cannot find any skilled employment since potential employers and recruiters suggest that his heavy Nigerian “accent” makes him unsuitable in the US market. Like many in his situation he has financial obligations to his family back home, yet he cannot explain to them that he has no money to send. His efforts to attain a green card also turn out to be challenging: he loses money several ways and to add to his woes he marries a voluptuous young woman whose appetites are insatiable hence he gets deeper into debt by gambling. Driven to desperation, he hatches a plan: to travel back to his homeland, steal the village’s powerful war God called ‘Ngene’ and sell it to Mark Gruel -the proprietor of a Company called Foreign Gods Inc. “Ngene is a majestic god, a warrior god, with a rich legend and history”. Ike imagines the inventory description in the catalogue and the hefty dollar figure to go with it.
Okey Ndibe’s new novel, Foreign Gods, Inc. is a fast paced and amusing read that could be defined as a quest as well as a satire. Having said that, the novel simmers and deepens into something a little more realistic and a lot more affecting. The novel is woven with a theme of more stern topic, such as misconception of animmigrant’s pursuit of ‘American Dream’ of culture clashes between modern and traditional societies, distinction between art and gods themselves–to see them as “art” or define art without its supernatural element is itself to compromise to a Western view of the pieces,
The gods really are literally gods, no, are they figurative representations?
One key theme is the ubiquitous influence of materialism and the worshipping of the new religion: the almighty American dollar. The story is strewn with Ike being the only empathetic character in the novel, while the atmospheric scenes and mild suspense are in the background.
While the dialogue and theme is outstanding, the conclusion reaches anti climax; which turn out to be a bit of a letdown.
Initially, the heist plot at the heart of the book would seem to suggest a fast-paced read, the prose tends to lay a little flat on the page. This may be because few, if any, of the characters are well developed. Instead, they come across more as types than people — they’re all kind of one-note. This is not to say there aren’t some compelling portions. The scenes of Ike at the airport in Lagos are particularly good, especially when he’s leaving and has to bribe customs official.
In conclusion, Foreign Gods Inc is a book worth having on the shelf. It’s a breath of fresh air in the African literature.