This was a heartwarming tale by Nigerian author Chibundu Onuzo, about five strangers who meet and become unlikely allies to try to survive life in Lagos.
Military officer Chike Ameobi and Yemi, a private from his unit decide to desert the Nigerian army together when they disobey orders from their commanding officer to burn down a village, killing the civilians. On their way they meet Fineboy, a militant rebel who doesn’t want to be a militant anymore; Isoken, a young teenager escaping from the very same militant rebels who tried to rape her. On the bus to Lagos, they meet Oma, a housewife running away from an abusive husband. The only thing these five individuals have in common is their desire for escape and for a fresh start. Lagos, a vast metropolis crammed full of people with the same ideas is at once the best and worst place for such dreams.
As the group settle down together in an abandoned they form a family of sorts, punctuated by the tireless routine of making ends meet during the day and evening Bible readings. Their relatively peaceful and anonymous life is disrupted by the arrival of one Chief Sandayo and the ten million dollars he stole from Government. From there the novel transforms from a commentary on life on the margins of society in Lagos, into a modern day morality tale as the group discuss what to with the Chief, who is a wanted man and the ten million.
Now realistically, it seems obvious what the decision would or should be. Ten million dollars would transform anybody’s life especially those at the very bottom. But Onuzo, doesn’t concern herself with presenting us with a rags to riches tale – albeit via dubious means, but instead offers a rather idealistic take on what I imagine she believes should be done, which comes to a jarringly realistic end. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read and I rather liked the idealism behind it and the bittersweet humour that weaved through the novel. More so for its juxtaposition against the reality of the group’s situation. I would definitely recommend reading it, if only for a contemporary look at life in Nigeria.