cover image Welcome to Lagos

Welcome to Lagos

Chibundu Onuzo. Catapult (PGW, dist.), $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-936787-80-7

In her winning U.S. debut, Onuzo anatomizes a tumultuous city and its inhabitants, from street hustlers to well-connected government ministers. Seeking refuge in the metropolis for various reasons, several Nigerian travelers group up en route to Lagos, including morally upright army deserter Chike; swaggering teenage militant Fineboy; well-to-do Oma, who is fleeing her abusive husband; and a precocious but traumatized girl, Isoken. These characters form a family of sorts as they are welcomed to Lagos coolly, obliged to live in a homeless encampment before settling in an unoccupied house. There they encounter someone desperately trying to leave Lagos: an education minister who has gone into hiding with $10 million meant for Nigeria’s schools. What to do with the minister, and more important, with his money? Onuzo’s representation of Lagos as “a carnivore of a city that swallowed even bones” is often unromantic, but she also criticizes how the city is represented, or misrepresented, by Westerners: “Scandal, murder, intrigue. Quintessential African politics,” thinks one BBC correspondent covering the minister’s story. Onuzo’s briskly plotted novel is a rewarding exploration of the limits of idealism and transparency against widespread cynicism and corruption. [em](May) [/em]