January 07, 2015

Foreign Gods INC. by Okey Ndibe | Book Review

Ikechukwu Uzondu has been a New York City taxi driver for 13 years even though he graduated cum laude with a degree in Economics from Amherst College, Massachusetts. Initially, the major obstacle on his path to a financially rewarding career seemed to be his lack of a United States working permit. He gets married to Queen Bertha, an obnoxious, insatiable woman he meets in Baltimore, and he gets the coveted American green card, putting an end to all his immigration problems. His next obstacle to getting a "corporate job befitting his education" is his accent which all prospective employers deem a serious communication problem. Stumped and with no substantial source of income he becomes a taxi driver at the behest of his friend but Ikechukwu wants more and he truly deserves it. Along comes a feature story in New York magazine about the store Foreign Gods INC and its enterprising owner, Mark Gruels. Foreign Gods INC. sells foreign deities from all corners of the globe. Its patrons are the wealthy, and famous, willing to pay six figure sums, and sometimes millions of dollars for sculptures of exotic deities. At first Ikechukwu is irritated and repulsed by the idea of trading gods but as he gives it more thought his mind opens up to the possibilities. He's sure his village god Ngene back home in Enugu, Nigeria will command enough money to lift him out of penury, win him back respect, and help him support his mother and sister. Filled with ideas of grandeur Ikechukwu Uzondu steels himself and makes a trip back to his village in Nigeria.

Foreign Gods INC. is the BEST book I've read since I reviewed Taiye Selasi's Ghana Must Go in June of 2014. You won't forget this book. When I finished reading it I put my hands on my head thinking "Okey Ndibe has killed me...". I love the character Ikechukwu Uzondu and I kept rooting for him inspite of everything. I think being Igbo like Ikechukwu helped me understand and fully appreciate every little thing going on in Foreign Gods INC. but it's a universal tale that everyone will find relatable. I really, really, really love this story. Foreign Gods INC. should win awards. Foreign Gods INC. should be made into a movie. I saw Okey Ndibe when he came for the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) celebration of 50 years of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka almost 7 years ago. My good friends Eromo Egbejule and Onyeka Nwelue took photos with him but I hadn't read any of his works back then so I did not introduce myself. Now I'm a huge fan of Okey Ndibe. Foreign Gods INC. is moving, refreshing, and couldn't have been narrated any better. BUY Foreign Gods INC. Read it. Share it.

[Image via Goodreads]