Okey Ndibe’s Foreign Gods, Inc is a very well written novel that was a breath of fresh air.
Here is the blurb from GoodReads:
“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.”
I was drawn to this novel and was not disappointed. Ndibe is a talented writer who describes settings and emotions vividly. And really that is what this story was to me. The descriptions of a foreign man in a place far different from his home. The emotions he goes through fighting to fit in and be accepted. The feel of his home and the struggle of his family. I found Ike, the main character, easy to follow and easy to like. I felt his desperation as he ran out of money and tried to come up with ways to rectify his situation. The pressure of being an immigrant with a less fortunate family left behind.
I particularly enjoyed the parts where Ike is back in Nigeria; the stories about the God Ngene, the descriptions of his home and his memories, and the battle between the followers of Ngene and those of Christianity. I was struck by Ike’s misfortune as a highly educated man being denied his chance for success purely based on an accent and I was saddened by his eventual lot. This isn’t a happy ending story. To me it was an honest look into the experience of so many people who move between completely different worlds and who must remain honourable to both but accepted in neither to some extent. I enjoyed reading this book and if the blurb speaks to you, I’m sure Ndibe’s writing will not let you down.