cover image God of Mercy

God of Mercy

Okezie Nwoka. Astra House, $23.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-66260-083-8

Nwoka’s dense, mythologically charged debut takes place in an Igbo village in an unspecified area of Africa, at an unspecified time. There, magic is a part of daily life, the inhabitants attribute their fortunes to the Igbo gods, and young, mute Ijeoma discovers she can fly. Her dissolute father, Ofodile, decides this power is dangerous, and, without the knowledge of Ijeoma’s mother or the rest of the community, exiles her to Precious Word Ministries, where she is abused, caged, and regarded as a witch. After years of maltreatment, during which she writes hundreds of diary entries entreating the village god Chukwu to save her, she and her rebellious friend Ikemba make plans to escape, and their scheming brings about magical and transformative consequences. Nwoka immerses the reader in an often-bewildering world, and though readers unfamiliar with the culture will have a tough time making sense of the parameters, those who stick with it will be rewarded with a rich sense of place. This stirring coming-of-age story holds its own in a recent wave of feminist fiction set in Africa. (Nov.)