Review: Foreign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndibe


I’m not even going to dive into my literary analysis of this book, as much as it is tempting the English major in me. For instance, the condition of immigrants in the U.S., the place of religion in the modern world, the power of belief, greed and success, and so on. Seriously, I could probably write a ten-page paper based on this book.

foreigngodsForeign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndibe

Published: January 14th 2014 by Soho Press
Format/Source: Paperback ARC from BEA 2013
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction/Contemporary (I think Thriller)
Pages: 336

Synopsis:

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 desire 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 interconnected world like no other.

Review:

jokers5

Foreign Gods, Inc. is a story that left my mouth gaping as I slowly came to the realization of the caliber of the story I had read.

I was an English major in college and took plenty of literature courses. One was on African American literature and another course with a reading list of a lot of immigrant struggle stories. In many ways, I feel that this is a book that could be added to any of those reading courses for the next semester.

In fact, this is a book that I wish I could read with my book club. I want to discuss it, to really peel off all the layers of the story. It’s a story with a lot of layers that I really appreciated uncovering.

Ike has not made it very well in America. He has an economics degree, but cannot find a worthwhile job due to his accent. He goes to try to make some money by stealing his village’s deity statue. But the village is a different world than the one he’s gotten used to in New York.

There are multiple parallels made with this story that is almost poetic in its execution. One example in particular was the stark juxtaposition between the main character, Ike, being confronted with the poverty of his old girlfriend and then immediately went to one of his childhood friend’s house who was so wealthy he had a room just for the locals to watch old American television.

I would say that the language and story-telling style are similar to Chinua Achebe, but I really think that it would be an unfair comparison. I’m not really sure how many stories I’ve read that deal with the same kind of culture, and even just that sentence makes me sound really ignorant. It’s why I don’t think such comparisons are fair unless someone has read more than the required reading of Things Fall Apart. I will say that Okey Ndibe is a powerful storyteller and I definitely place this book in my ‘must recommend to everyone’ list.

I’m not even going to dive into my literary analysis of this book, as much as it is tempting the English major in me. For instance, the condition of immigrants in the U.S., the place of religion in the modern world, the power of belief, greed and success, and so on. Seriously, I could probably write a ten-page paper based on this book.

All that said, I highly recommend this book for someone who can handle a literary read and is okay with open-ended endings (seriously, the ending is quite an abrupt stunner).

jokerssig

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