The book has certain curiosities to it, first the title, Foreign Gods, Inc. it sends a signal and a cascade of questions down one’s mind. In Okey Ndibe’s hands we come across Ike’s story. Ike is a Nigerian New Yorker, a graduate cabby who holds an Amherst cum laud degree in Economics. Ike just waddled out of a divorce, he is broke and he is an alcohol addict. he loves the American dream, and he has had his own episode, a cut of the pie, in his bid to acquire the green card and secure a job on wall street, pursuits that left him broke, and emotionally wrecked.As a means to an end, Ike sets out to go his village in Nigeria and god-nap his village ancestral deity statue, sell it to an American god collector and make enough money to put his misery to sleep. It seems such a task-less quest until things turn into a water fall of events where culture, race,immigration and diaspora influences, African tradition and even domestic abuse are explored in the chase of Ngene the African god in a post modern context. I mean who steals a god these days?
Foreign Gods, Inc is a page turner, one is immersed in Ike’s story and like seeking an intervention for him. His characterization is very linear, he is small willed, selfish, weak and battered man whose choices make him, not the authors. Foreign Gods, Inc is a moral tale embedded with stiff comic and light humor. Okey Ndibe projects the influence of the American dream on African immigrants, and how this influence offers them a fake sense of superiority over Africans who have not set foot in America. Ike showed this when he stumbled on the kids watching reruns of Micheal Jordan’s rerun games, and he refused to see himself in the shoes of those boys. they really want the same thing.
Ike refuse to see that stealing his village god and selling it to an American god collector is an extension of the grip the American life has indirectly on him, Africa exports farm produce, oil diamonds and other solid minerals that have created economic channels and chaos alike, Ike just added exporting local deities to the list. so what can America not get from you, even your gods. At a point one looses feelings for Ike, and allows emotions towards his character turn cold.
The story is grounded in religion and cultural tussles as Ike’s mother and sister are victims of a fake pastor, who works on their fears and manages to scheme them out of their little money, by pitching Ike’s Uncle and grandmother against his mother and sister as their core enemies and the killers of Ike’s father. The plots is magnified as Ike finds himself in between the love of his mother and the appearances he has to keep with his Uncle, who is the custodian of Ngene, the god he plans on god-napping. Magic realism surfaces as Ike has a recurring dream that points him as the next custodian of Ngene, corroborated by his mothers insinuations.
The authors story telling is quite simple and concise, no wasted words or lost and carried away descriptions, he seems to know where is going with the story and he is in a rush to reach there, as such there are story line distortions, as such the story is compelling to read. After a dip into Ike’s background and personal life, the author turns one back to his ambition. he used Ike to tell of the continuous disappointment many have faced in the pursuit of the American dream an a immigrant.
I recommend this book. It is a good read. But wait, who am I to do that.