P.s. Foreign Gods, Inc. took me about 6-7 months to complete, more on that soon.
Okey Ndibe’s Foreign Gods, Inc. tells the story of Ikechukwu Uzondu. Ikechukwu is a New York-based Nigerian who is left no choice but to make his living as a cab driver. Ike’s qualifications do not fetch him a job because of his strong accent. He struggles really hard to make ends meet with this job. Frustrated with the stunted progress he experiences, he comes up with a genius idea. At least to him, it is a genius idea. This idea, if perfectly executed, would bring an end to all of his present woes. So, what exactly is this idea?
Ike’s brilliant idea is to travel to his native hometown of Utonki. His mission at Utonki? To steal the statue of the village’s ancient war deity, Ngene. And how exactly does this help solve his problems you might ask? The culmination of his plan would see him sell Ngene to an America collector for a fat paycheck upon returning. Ike’s idea is evidently fueled by desperation.
As crazy as the idea sounds to the ears, it did make an interesting premise for a novel. In fact, it was so good it had me breezing through the pages of the novel. I was absolutely engrossed in the novel. However, that only lasted up to the point Ike arrived in Nigeria. The novel seemed to lose momentum and track of its premise from that point, completely veering off course. The novel became less engaging the longer Ike stayed in Nigeria. We are treated to pages upon pages of what I would call irrelevant backstories. These stories added nothing of real value to the plot. In my eyes, most of it read as fluff.
This was supposed to be the chase, the part where Ike encounters conflicts on his quest and tension heightens. But instead, the writer leaves us with nostalgic tales of Ike’s time before leaving for America. Introducing us to characters like Ike’s childhood friend who has now turned politician; his first love who left him for another man; a false pastor dwindling members of Utonki, Ike’s mother inclusive, of the little they have. The most annoying of the stories was that of the Reverend Stanton. It went on and on to no particular end. The novel still would have made perfect sense with the bulk of these stories omitted. If there was anything these expositions achieved, it was that they disrupted the flow of the novel.
Little happens that significantly advances or hinders him from achieving his goal for all the time spent in the village. And to think that I had questions that I desperately needed to be answered in my mind. Questions like, “Did Ikechukwu go ahead with his plan?” “If yes, was he successful?” “Did he have a change of mind along the way?” “If so, what happened that led him to change his mind?”
For many pages, these questions did not seem like they were going to be answered. The irrelevant expository tales, coupled with an impatience to find answers, where the major reasons I dropped Foreign Gods, Inc. for over 6 months – from September 2016 to be precise. Armed with the determination to publish a review, I picked the book up again in the month of April.
The action picks up once more from the night Ike’s plan is finally set in motion. Everything begins to once again revolve around the premise of the novel at this point. Even at that, I felt like the concluding parts of the novel was rushed. For a novel that spared little attention to details and establishing backstories, I felt like the concluding parts of the novel happened in a flash.
These reservations aside, Foreign Gods, Inc. was worth the read. The combination of a premise whose strength lied in its uniqueness and a story well told for the times it focused on the premise made for an interesting read. Also, the writer displayed a strong command of the English language and African proverbs, creating a perfect blend. It was impressive, to say the least.
Book Title – Foreign Gods, Inc.
Author – Okey Ndibe
Publisher – Soho Press
Date Of Publication – January 1st, 2014
Genre – African Literature
Pages – 336
Format – ePub