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I Do Not Come to You by Chanceby Adaobi Tri Nwaubani
Synopses & Reviews
A deeply moving debut novel set amid the perilous world of Nigerian email scams, I Do Not Come to You by Chance tells the story of one young man and the family who loves him. Being the opera of the family, Kingsley Ibe is entitled to certain privileges--a piece of meat in his egusi soup, a party to celebrate his graduation from university. As first son, he has responsibilities, too. But times are bad in Nigeria, and life is hard. Unable to find work, Kingsley cannot take on the duty of training his younger siblings, nor can he provide his parents with financial peace in their retirement. And then there is Ola. Dear, sweet Ola, the sugar in Kingsley's tea. It does not seem to matter that he loves her deeply; he cannot afford her bride price. It hasn't always been like this. For much of his young life, Kingsley believed that education was everything, that through wisdom, all things were possible. Now he worries that without a "long-leg"--someone who knows someone who can help him--his degrees will do nothing but adorn the walls of his parents' low-rent house. And when a tragedy befalls his family, Kingsley learns the hardest lesson of all: education may be the language of success in Nigeria, but it's money that does the talking. Unconditional family support may be the way in Nigeria, but when Kingsley turns to his Uncle Boniface for help, he learns that charity may come with strings attached. Boniface--aka Cash Daddy--is an exuberant character who suffers from elephantiasis of the pocket. He's also rumored to run a successful empire of email scams. But he can help. With Cash Daddy's intervention, Kingsley and his family can be as safe as a tortoise in its shell. It's up to Kingsley now to reconcile his passion for knowledge with his hunger for money, and to fully assume his role of first son. But can he do it without being drawn into this outlandish milieu?
"In this highly entertaining novel about Nigerian Internet scammers, Kingsley Ibe is an engineering school graduate who can't find a job and still lives at home with his family. After his girlfriend rejects him and his father dies, Kingsley is taken on by his Uncle Boniface (aka Cash Daddy), who is in the business of Internet scams, otherwise known as 419s. Soon, Kingsley is writing e-mail solicitations to the gullible of cyberspace, and any qualms he may have had about ripping off innocent people evaporate as he steps into the good life with a big new house, a Lexus and a new love interest (who doesn't know how Kingsley 'earns' his money). Meanwhile, Cash Daddy develops political ambitions and gains some ruthless enemies bent on crushing him. As the plots converge, Kingsley must decide whether to sell his soul to build a 419 kingdom. Although the narrative follows a somewhat predictable trajectory, Kingsley's engaging voice and the story's vividly rendered setting prove that while crime may not pay, writing about it as infectiously as Nwaubani does certainly pays off for the reader." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Dear Friend, I do not come to you by chance. Upon my quest for a trusted and reliable foreign business man or company, I was given your contact by the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I hope that you can be trusted to handle a transaction of this magnitude." The feelings that such unsolicited e-mails provoke — impatience, scorn, amusement — make most of us click the... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) delete button daily. Nigerian e-mail scams are so notorious that few of us give them a thought. And yet these missives are an unsung literary form, a river of wheedling, flattery and grasping that flows directly from the desires of the human heart. The young Nigerian writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is determined to follow them back to their source. Her pointed and poignant first novel is a lively, good-humored and provocative examination of the truth behind a global inbox of deceit. As the story opens, Kingsley, a first-born son, struggles to provide for his beloved family when his ailing father's income dwindles. Possessed of a fine mind but poorly connected in the corrupt Nigerian job market, Kingsley falls in with his notorious uncle, Cash Daddy, the larger-than-life mastermind of a thousand e-mail scams. A silver-tongued cross between Homer Simpson and Col. Kurtz, Cash Daddy is a conman of blubbery greed, chilling wisdom, offbeat charm and unabashed naked exhibitionism — all delightfully rendered. As Kingsley puts it, "He could probably even talk a spider into weaving silk socks for him." As Kingsley falls reluctantly under his mentor's spell and discovers his own innate flair for the art of the confidence trick, Nwaubani takes us deeper into the intricate world of the Nigerian e-mail scam. She wears her research lightly; the detailed exposition of the methods deployed to string along Western suckers is fascinating and often funny. In one scene, a young Nigerian man, to the uproarious encouragement of his friends, masquerades as a buxom makeup artist from New Jersey and texts a libidinous Salt Lake City man until he wires $4,000 against the promise that his "babe" will come to visit him. Nwaubani further enlivens such winning vignettes with fearless similes: "It felt as if a gallon of 2,2,4-trimethylpentane had been pumped into my heart," Kingsley says, "and set alight with a stick of match." As the scams increase in scale and audacity, the novel begins to accomplish something more than simply poking fun at the lust and rapacity that make a small but lucrative fraction of Westerners susceptible to such scams. Significantly, the names of Nwaubani's suckers are not Smith and Jones but rather Rumsfeld, Albright, Condoleezza and Letterman; they are little people with big people's names and emotional resonance. The reader is thus invited to see the whole fraught relationship between Africa and the West in the microcosm of these deceptively simple e-mails from Nigeria. There is a pulsating anger underneath all the tricks and the levity. When challenged regarding the immorality of ripping off unsuspecting Westerners, Nwaubani's characters explicitly cite slavery and the Western exploitation of the Niger Delta's oil wealth as justification; they're merely repatriating capital that they feel was taken from them unjustly. The picture is further complicated by the charitable use to which a great deal of the embezzled money is put in the novel: building schools, paving roads and funding orphanages. "No matter what the media proclaimed," says Kingsley, "we were not villains, and the good people of Eastern Nigeria knew it." Nwaubani's subversive skill lies in telling us a familiar story from an unfamiliar angle. By making Robin Hood heroes of the vilified perpetrators of e-mail scams, she allows us to enjoy watching a potbellied pervert from Utah pay an African village kid's school fees. But Nwaubani does not ignore the moral difficulties of this arrangement, and indeed the emotional propulsion of the novel comes from Kingsley's own growing disgust at what he is becoming. This is not a flawless novel — it is an original and heartfelt debut that occasionally offends against pacing and plausibility — but its flaws are more than compensated for by Nwaubani's storytelling skill and the sharp pair of eyes she lends us. Western audiences have grown up with films such as "The Sting" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," in which scammers are charming and their victims covetous and vile. In Western pop culture, when white folks go on the scam, it's a comedy — or, if they do it on a truly grand scale, it's a taxpayer bailout — yet when Africans go scamming, it's a crime. One of Nwaubani's many fine achievements in publishing her timely novel here is to give Westerners credit for beginning to move on from that. I hope we can be trusted to handle a transaction of this magnitude. Reviewed by Chris Cleave, whose most recent novel is 'Little Bee', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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We've all seen the scams--those infamous 419 emails (named after a section of Nigerian law), that invade inboxes daily with a plea: Dear Friend, I'm a retired barrister. I alone know the existence of this ten million dollar deposit. I am looking for your assistance... But there are real people writing these emails, even if what they say isn't true. In Adaobi Nwaubani's vivid, often hilarious debut novel, we learn how one young man gets sucked into the 419 world, losing himself in the process. Kingsley is fresh out of university, eager to find an engineering job so he can support his family--descended into poverty after his father fell ill--and marry his sweetheart, Ola. But jobs are not easy to come by, and out of desperation he turns to his uncle, Cash Daddy, who runs a successful empire of 419 scams. Unconditional family support is the Nigerian way, but the hand Cash Daddy extends in charity has consequences. As Kingsley is drawn into this outlandish milieu, he soon realizes that nothing in Nigeria comes for free. Like Monica Ali, Kiran Desai, and Lisa See, Adaobi Nwaubani captures her distinct world in unputdownable ways. Accomplished, lyrical, and enlightening, this is a debut that is destined to stand out.
About the Author
Adaobi Nwaumbani grew up in the Eastern part of Nigeria, among the Igbo speaking people who are actually the major culprits of 419. This is her first novel.
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