Friday, May 29th, 2009
The Short Take:
This engaging novel about a young man who becomes embroiled in the fast-money world of Nigeria’s email scams delivers a fresh and fascinating reading experience. Insights into Nigeria’s family, societal, and governmental structures simply add more interest to an already mesmerizing tale.
At first you might feel you are reading the first cousin of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective series. Not so. Nwaubani’s first novel possesses a subtle but decidedly wicked sense of humor. She cites as her influences P. G. Wodehouse and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. That might seem quite the odd couple of writers, but — believe me — it works.
Family obligations, the struggle to escape poverty, thwarted love, and criminal pursuits might not sound like light-hearted reading, but Nwaubani’s work has such a gentle touch you never feel weighed down by the circumstances her characters find themselves in. You just can’t wait to discover what happens next.
Part of this is due to her characters. Even the most debauched criminal is ultimately likable to a certain extent. And you never stop caring about Kingsley, her central character, the young university graduate who enters the email scam world.
If you have an email account, you’ve probably gotten one of those bogus emails offering a too-good-to-be-true business opportunity or asking your help in claiming a substantial fortune (with a hefty commission to you, fo course). Nwaubani talked extensively to email scam operators, called 419ers in her native Nigeria. Her research shows just how these complex and surprisingly sophisticated operations work. Giving you yet another reason to enjoy her work.
Judging from this, her first work, Nwaubani has the potential to be the Jane Austen of contemporary Africa. She frankly addresses the problems of her country but with a sly sense of humor and obvious genuine affection. Sounds a lot like Jane to me.
A Little Plot:
Eldest son Kingsley did all the right things: made excellent grades, earned a chemical engineering degree as his father wished. His parents have sacrificed everything for his education and it’s now his turn to do the same for his younger siblings. However, he can’t land a job. When his father becomes deathly ill, a dire situation turns desperate.
Kingsley’s only hope for his family’s future lies with his Uncle Boniface, better known as Cash Daddy. An email scam operator of epic proportions and bottomless pockets, Cash Daddy is the ultimate persona non grata to Kingsley’s family. However with no other resource, Kingsley must turn to him for financial assistance. Naturally, it’s not long before Cash Daddy offers Kingsley a career with him that will not only sustain his family but provide previously unknown luxuries.
It’s an offer too good to refuse. But that doesn’t make life any easier with his mother, who desperately wants Kingsley to stick to the honorable career and life she and his father envisioned. And it reshapes Kingsley’s life in ways he never imagined. It’s both uphill and downhill from there.
Nwaubani does not have a website (yet), but I did find an interesting interview on line. To check it out, click here.