Book Review – Foreign Gods Inc.

Foreign Gods Inc. tells a story fueled by desperation, ignorance, selfishness and some idiocy.

After years of underemployment and living carelessly, Ikechukwu Uzondu is ready to do anything to get rich quick. He gets the bright idea to steal and sell Ngene, the god of his village to American collectors.

Never mind that he may have a psychic connection to this god. Forget that his uncle, Ngene’s priest, is emotionally attached to this god. Let’s ignore the fact that his mother will definitely die of a heart attack once she learns of her son’s proximity to god. All Ikechukwu sees are dollar signs and surely his needs are greater than everyone else’s. They won’t remember pain once the money comes and Ikechukwu can live up to his role as the family provider, right? And we don’t have to worry about spiritual consequences because the gods are dead… Right?!

 In case you can’t tell I didn’t expect him to go ahead with this ridiculous idea. Okey Ndibe created such a realistic feel to this story I lost my nerve ( on Ike’s behalf) once we landed in Nigeria. You know how things seem straightforward in your head and then when you go to do it, you realise you weren’t ready? I loved how that played out in the story.

This book illustrates an example of how far you shouldn’t go when you’re desperate. Ike has been so stripped of his moral fibre, he’s too much of a fool to read the signs around him. Or to make proper sales arrangements before spending his life savings on a curse. I shouldn’t laugh but Ike is not a particularly lovable character. You could tell he wasn’t beyond redemption but he couldn’t see past that paycheck. I am sure there’s a Yoruba proverb for this situation.

This was my first read by Okey Ndibe and it was beautiful. He captures reality so well with his words, I could see his characters in real people around me. From Ikechukwu to his extra religious mother who was ready to see witches in all corners. To Pastor Uka, a binder of witches and curse breaker. I also enjoyed Ike’s visions of Reverend Statton, even if I still haven’t figured out its relevance to the story.

Overall Reaction

Okey Ndibe did a great job of establishing the relationship between man and god in Foreign Gods Inc. To the point where I found myself giving reverence to Ngene. This is coming from someone who remained sceptical about the gods in The Concubine until the end.

Author: Okey Ndibe

Published by: Soho Press, Inc.

Date of Publication: 2014

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 330

Source: Gift

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Blurb

Foreign Gods Inc., tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery.

Ike’s plan is fueled by desperation. Despite a degree in economics from a major American college, his strong accent has barred him from the corporate world. Forced to eke out a living as a cab driver, he is unable to manage the emotional and material needs of a temperamental African-American bride and a widowed mother demanding financial support. When he turns to gambling, his mounting losses compound his woes.

And so he travels back to Nigeria to steal the statue, where he has to deal with old friends, family, and a mounting conflict between those in the village who worship the deity, and those who practice Christianity.

A meditation on the dreams, promises and frustrations of the immigrant life in America; the nature and impact of religious conflicts; an examination of the ways in which modern culture creates or heightens infatuation with the “exotic,” including the wish to own strange objects and hanker after ineffable illusions; and an exploration of the shifting nature of memory, Foreign Gods is a brilliant work of fiction that illuminates our globally connected world like no other.

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