Ferguson's African epic, which won Canada's Scotiabank Giller prize in 2012, details the linked lives of four individuals, three African and one Canadian, drawn together by Nigeria's bloody, exploited history. Laura seeks justice for her murdered father; amoral Winston chases wealth at any cost; Nnamdi and Amina seek only honest employment and a chance to raise Amina's child. Greed contends with generosity and vengeance with forgiveness in a world where the bad prosper and acts of charity are harshly punished. Despite the terrible events of the book, the author leaves room for hope of a better tomorrow. White North Americans grappling with the 'matter of Africa' is an often fraught affair, bright white teeth contrasted with chocolate skin, where tides of causeless violence wash across the hopeless continent and exoticized, sexualized natives exist solely to provide a supporting cast for white protagonists. Ferguson avoids many of the pitfalls of this genre; every terrible action has a motivation, Nigeria's present calamities have a historical and international context. Most importantly, Winston, Nnamdi and Amina do not exist merely to cast an edifying light on Laura, but, as she belatedly comes to appreciate, have inner lives, goals and ambitions of their own. Ferguson provides a template for novels about Africa other Western authors would do well to contemplate. Agent: Grainne Fox, Fletcher & Company.
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