Title: A Country Of Extraordinary Ghosts
Author: Onyeka Nwelue
Publisher: Blues and Hills
A young man watched as his city –Sodom (Oh Yes, the biblical Sodom) -was destroyed by God as a punishment for their utter disobedience and eagerness to defy the scriptures. While Lot and the Believers were saved, the young man, who was meant to perish with other sinners escaped through a train by sheer luck. He was the only unbeliever that survived. The train however dropped him in Lagos, 2018. A new life, a new era that confused him deliriously. How can he get back to Sodom? What is this place called Lagos? Why is it so loud? Why are people speaking with something called phone instead of speaking to one another? Why are people looking at him like he’s smoked some weed when he says he’s from Sodom?
In Ajegunle, Lagos, the young man whose name wasn’t revealed in the book easily blended in as he realised Sodom was like Lagos in many ways – especially the glorification of lust and crime. The Narrator met an alcoholic Doctor who revealed he had once met someone who had a similar condition as him. An expert in psychology; the doctor confessed he couldn’t tell for sure if the narrator truly came from Sodom or suffering a type of amnesia or psychological illness that replaced his memories with false memories.
The narrator later fled from the Doctor as he was exhausted of being used as a lab rat to live with his newly made friend Bolu. While exploring his lust, he got into the hands of policemen after he tried to rape a prostitute which led him to meet Father Ajayi, a priest who bailed him from jail. He lived with Father Ajayi while he suffered sexual abuse in his hands and also discovering and then revealing dirty secrets Father Ajayi buried from the world and his congregation who he was supposed to guide to the right path.
Set in Sodom, the slum of Lagos and then Rome, I must say it was a really awesome journey. The story line is brilliant, unique and no doubt birthed from a creative imagination, I have never read anything with the same idea in this story. Theme includes Religious Hypocrisy, Prostitution, Lust, Mental Illness, Rape, Paedophilia and Sexual Abuse.
I like the way he subtly compared the biblical story of Sodom to the happenings in the world which I must say is quite similar.
However a great fiction for me is good storytelling + good writing. While I think Nwelue is a good storyteller (the plot is quite gripping), I could not help but conclude that he could have worked more on the plot development and editing. A little editorial errors. So many things cramped into few chapters that I felt could be better if broadly explained. Scenes and plots shifted too fast, like in a haste to tell the story before the idea disappears, like there was a deadline for the submission of the manuscript. This story would be much better if he developed the plot.
Also, there was something off about the way the narrator switched his narrating tone, from calling the woman mammalian glands to breasts then shifted to calling it melons or bulbs, he referred vagina to that thing and masturbation to the thing. It was off for me, for a lustful narrator who was used to Sodom and their openness about sex to be discreet about these words was off for me as a reader.
Amidst all this, A Country of Extraordinary Ghost has a creative and gripping story narrated by an unbalanced man that was quite interesting. This story is going to entertain your mind while prudently addressing societal ills and religious hypocrisy. It’s a fast recommendable and enjoyable read. A unique story line, different from the usual, with a narrator that is hard to hate or love. Seriously it’s unique to come by narrators that are hard to hate or love.
I got this book in exchange for an honest review. ♥
Hi Reader. Do you know Onyeka Nwelue’s first book – The Abyssinian Boy was written at the age of 21 and won the TM Aluko Prize for Fiction?