cover image Voice of America

Voice of America

E.C. Osondu, Harper, $23.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-199086-1

In "Waiting," the first story in Osondu's debut collection, Nigerians in an American refugee camp take their names from T-shirts given to them by the Red Cross, a telling detail that sets the tone for all that follows. In "Jimmy Carter's Eyes," a blind girl becomes a prophet; in "Miracle Baby," another prophet assures a childless woman that one of the fish in his pond will become her baby. A Greek chorus gives many of Osondu's tales a folkloric tone and, indeed, "Our First American" feels as if the entire village is telling the story of Mark and his girlfriend, a temperamental prostitute named Beauty. Whereas the stories set in Nigeria have a fablesque quality, the American-set tales are poignant studies of the immigrant experience. "An Incident at Pat's Bar" is a compelling marriage of both worlds. Set at an expat bar in Nigeria, it explores the strained relationship between Nigerian and American oil workers. Osondu's direct and humorous insights and poetic descriptions create a captivating portrait of time and place. (Nov.)