I Do Not Come to You by Chance

( 7 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The notorious world of Nigerian email scams is brought to life in this vibrant debut. Kingsley, a recent university graduate in southeastern Nigeria, is unable to find a job in the engineering field. After his longtime girlfriend leaves him for a successful businessman and a series of tragedies leaves his family in dire financial straits, he turns to his uncle Boniface, a.k.a. Cash Daddy, the mastermind behind a gang of "419" scammers. The novel has one foot in the postcolonial African literary tradition-Cash Daddy has some characteristics of larger-than-life political or military leaders-but the technological aspects and exploration of a society obsessed with money give it a postmodern slant. In addition, the plot and themes bear some resemblance to those of urban fiction and should draw in a variety of readers. What begins as an engaging character study driven by sharp satire and colorful, off-kilter dialog eventually loses its way, much like its protagonist, in the murky world of the scammers but remains a unique and entertaining read throughout.
—Forest Turner

Kirkus Reviews
Thwarted in his ambition to become an engineer, a young Nigerian is lured by his charismatic uncle into a lucrative empire of e-mail scams. Kingsley is the eldest child of parents who worship learning and play by the rules. But his father's failing health and resulting retirement have landed the family in genteel poverty, and when Kingsley emerges from the university he feels obliged to support them. Engineering jobs are scarce and elusive, alas, and first novelist Nwaubani ratchets up the pressure: Kingsley's fiancee cuts him loose, and his father Paulinus suffers a stroke. In a harrowing scene, the family rushes from hospital to hospital, looking for one that will admit Paulinus, comatose and still internally bleeding, without cash payment up front; when, finally, they call upon a distant relative's influence to secure help, they're issued a list of items to buy that includes IV bags and syringes. Desperate, Kingsley calls upon rich Uncle Boniface, aka "Cash Daddy," a successful and extravagant "419er" (after the section in Nigeria's penal code that he runs roughshod over). He imagines he's just getting a loan from his uncle, but before long the would-be engineer finds himself enmeshed in the work of finding "mugus" (suckers) from the developed world, luxuriating in the lavish perks that come from that work-and, of course, headed for a final reckoning. The prose is merely functional, the plotting a little schematic, but Cash Daddy is a charming scapegrace, and Kingsley's moral dilemma has real interest. Nwaubani's portrait of contemporary Nigeria and her account of the financial and ethical convolutions of the developing world compel the reader's attention. Not perfect, but anentertaining and promising debut from a Nigerian native. Agent: Daniel Lazar/Writers House
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401323110
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 5/5/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 826,892
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet 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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Read an Excerpt

I DO NOT COME TO YOU BY CHANCE


By ADAOBI TRICIA NWAUBANI

HYPERION

Copyright © 2009 Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2311-0


Chapter One

My taste buds had been hearing the smell of mother's cooking and my stomach had started talking. Finally, she called out from the kitchen and my siblings rushed in to fetch their meals. Being the opara of the family, I was entitled to certain privileges. As first son, I sat at the dining table and waited. My mother soon appeared carrying a broad plastic tray with an enamel bowl of water, a flat aluminium plate of garri, and a dainty ceramic bowl of egusi soup.

I washed my hands and began to eat slowly. The soup should have been a thick concoction of ukazi leaves, chunks of dried fish and boiled meat, red palm oil, maggi cubes-all boiled together until they formed a juicy paste. But what I had in front of me were a midget-sized piece of meat, bits of vegetable, and random specks of egusi, floating around in a thin fluid that looked like a polluted stream.

The piece of meat looked up at me and laughed. I would have laughed back but there was nothing funny about the situation at all. My mother was not a novice in the kitchen. This pitiful presentation was a reflection of the circumstances in our home. Life was hard. Times were bad. Things had not always been like this.

After her Clothing and Textile degree, my mother had traveled to the United Kingdom with my father. They returned armed with master's degrees. He was posted to the Ministry of Works and Transport in Umuahia; she acquired a sizeable tailoring shop that still stood at the exact same spot where it had been founded all those years ago. Nix father's earnings alone had been more than enough, but years of rising inflation without corresponding increase in civil servant wages had gradually rendered the amount insignificant.

Then came my father's diagnosis. For a poorly paid civil servant to get caught up in an affliction like diabetes was the very height of ambitious misfortune. The expenditure on his tablets and insulin alone was enough for the upkeep of another grown child. And since his special diet banned him from large quantities of the high-carbohydrate staple foods in our part of the world, he was now constrained to healthier, less affordable alternatives. The little income from the tailoring shop plus my father's pension were what we were now surviving on.

My mother reappeared at the dining table, laden with another tray, which had my father's melancholic lunch on it. The front of her dress was stained with the sticky, black fluid from the unripe plantains that she had used to make her husband's porridge. She arranged the tray at the head of the table and sat in her place next to his.

"Paulinus, come and eat," she called out.

My father stood up from his favorite armchair. He shuffled to the dining table, bringing with him the combined odor of medication and illness and age. My siblings joined us. Charity sat between me and my mother on my right; Godfrey and Eugene sat to my left. The noise of tongues sticking, teeth chomping, and throats swallowing soon floated about in the air like ghosts. My father's voice joined in.

"Augustina, I need a little bit more salt."

My mother considered his request for a while. Because he also suffered from high blood pressure, every day she reduced the quantity of salt she added to his food, hoping that he would not notice. Reluctantly, she succumbed.

"Odinkemmelu," she called out.

There was no reply.

"Odinkemmelu!"

Silence was the answer.

"Odinkemmelu! Odinkemmelu!"

"Yes, Ma!" a voice responded from the kitchen.

The air in the room was suddenly invaded by the feral stench of pubescent sweat. Odinkemmelu entered wearing a rusty white T-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts that had jagged holes in several inappropriate places. He and the other girl, Chikaodinaka, had come from the village to live with us. Neither of them was allowed to sit at the dining table.

"How come it took you so long to answer?" my mother asked.

"Mama Kingsley, sorry, Ma. I am put off the fire for the kerosene stove by the time you call and I doesn't heard you."

My mother ran her eyes up and down Odinkemmelu's body in a way that must have tied knots in his spinal cord. But the boy was not telling a lie; the fumes floated in right on time. We had stopped using the gas cooker because cooking gas was too expensive, and had switched to the kerosene stove that contaminated the air in the house with thick, toxic clouds whenever it was quenched with either a sprinkling of water or the blasts of someone's breath.

"Bring me some salt," my mother said.

Odinkemmelu took his body odor away to the kitchen and returned with a teaspoon of salt.

"Godfrey, I don't want to hear that you forgot to bring the university entrance forms back from school tomorrow," my father said to my brother.

Godfrey grunted quietly.

"For almost a week now, I've been reminding you," my father continued. "You don't always have to wait till the last minute."

When it was my turn about seven years ago, I had brought my forms home promptly. My father had sat down with me and we filled them out together. We divided the task equally: He decided that I should study Chemical Engineering, he decided that I should attend the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, and he decided that I must not take the exams more than once. My own part was to fill in his instructions with Biro and ink, study for the exams, and make one of the highest Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam scores into the university's Chemical Engineering Department. Godfrey did not appear too keen on any such joint venture.

"And I hope you've been studying," my father added. "Because any child of mine who decides to be useless and not go to university has his own self to blame for however his life turns out."

A sudden bout of coughing forced an early conclusion to a speech that could easily have lasted the duration of our meal. To my parents, education was everything. She was the recipe for wealth, the pass to respectability, the ticket to eternal life.

Once, while in primary school, I had ventured to exercise my talents in the football field during break time and returned home with my school shirt badly ripped and stained. When my mother saw me, she stared as if I had huge pus-filled boils all over my body. Then she used a long koboko whip to express herself more vividly on my buttocks. Later that evening, my father called me into his bedroom. He sat on the bed, held my shoulders, and adjusted my posture until I was standing directly in front of him. He stared into my eyes forever. Then in a deep, sententious tone, he changed my life.

"Kingsley, do you want to be useful to yourself in this world?" he asked.

I answered in the affirmative.

"Do you want to make me and your mummy proud?"

Again, my answer was the same.

"Do you want people to know you and respect you wherever you go?"

I did.

"Do you want to end up selling pepper and tomatoes in Nkwoegwu market?"

I shuddered. My soul was horrified at the thought of joining the sellers who transported food items from different villages to one of the local markets. Hardly any of them understood what was being said if you did not speak Igbo. Most of them looked wretched.

My father amplified his voice.

"Do you?"

No, I did not.

"Then you must stop wasting your time on silly things. You must read your books ... focus on your studies and on the future you have ahead of you. A good education is what you need to survive in this world. Do you hear me?"

I heard him too loud and very clear. Still, he continued.

He explained that without education, man is as though in a closed room; with education, he finds himself in a room with all its windows open toward the outside world. He said that education makes a man a right thinker; it tells him how to make decisions. He said that finishing school and finishing well was an asset that opened up a thousand more opportunities for people.

My tender triceps started grumbling. He continued.

He said that education is the only way of putting one's potentials to maximum use, that you could safely say that a human being is not in his correct senses until he is educated.

"Even the Bible says it," he concluded. "'Wisdom is better than gold, understanding better than choice silver.' Do you hear me?"

Not only did I hear him, I believed him completely. I was brainwashed. I became an instant disciple. Thereafter, as I watched other little boys squandering their time and energy in football fields, I simply believed that they did not know what I knew. Like the Spider-man, I was privy to some esoteric experience that made me superhuman. And the more my scores skyrocketed in the classroom, the more I kept away from my friend Alozie, who could still not tell the difference between "there" and "their," and our neighbor's son Kachi, who was finding it difficult to learn the seven-times table. I continued to outdistance my classmates in academic performance. I had never once looked behind.

My mother reached out and patted her husband's back softly until his coughing ceased. Then she changed the topic.

"Kingsley, when is the next interview?" she asked.

"The letter just said I passed. They'll send another one to let me know. It's going to be a one-on-one meeting with one of the big bosses in their head office. This time, each person's date is different."

"You're going to Port Harcourt again?" Eugene asked.

"It's probably just a formality," my father said. "The first three interviews were the most important."

"So if you go and work in Shell now," Charity asked, "will you move to Port Harcourt?"

There was panic in her voice. I smiled fondly at her.

"It doesn't matter where I live," I replied. "I'll come home often and you can also come and be visiting me."

She did not look comforted. My father must have noticed.

"Charity, bring your plate," he said.

Charity pushed her enamel bowl of soup across the table, past my mother, and toward him. My father stuck his fork into the piece of meat in his plate and put it into his mouth. He bit some off with his incisors and deposited the remaining half into my sister's howl. Unlike mine, his was a veritable chunk of cow.

"Thank you, Daddy," she said, while dragging the bowl hack.

I remembered when Charity was born about eight weeks before my mother's expected date of delivery. Though we were all pleased that it was a girl at last, she looked like a withered skeleton, tiny enough to make seasoned doctors squirm. Going to hospital almost every day and watching her suffer must have been when each of us developed a special fondness for her. All of us except Eugene, who was a year younger than Godfrey and a year older than Charity. He was a thorn in her flesh and made her a regular target for his silly jokes.

"Ah!" Eugene exclaimed now. "Look at your armpit! It looks like a gorilla's thighs!"

Everybody turned toward Charity. She clutched her arms close to her side and looked about to press the control buttons of a time machine and disappear. My mother's eyes swelled with shock.

"Why can't you shave your armpits regularly?" she asked. "Don't you know you're now a big girl?"

A cloud fell upon Charity's face. At fifteen and a half, she was still very much a baby. She had wept when Princess Diana died, sobbed when we watched a documentary about people whose body parts were enlarged because of elephantiasis. While other Nigerians poured into the streets and celebrated General Sani Abacha's sudden death, Charity stayed indoors and shed tears.

"Is there any law that says she must shave?" Godfrey intervened. "Even if there is, who makes all those laws? Whose business is it if she decides to grow a forest under her arms?"

Charity rubbed her eves.

"It looks dirty," my mother said. "People will think she's untidy."

"Why can't people mind their own business?" Godfrey replied. "Why should they go about inspecting other people's armpits? After all, God who put those hairs there in the first place must have put them there for a reason."

Charity sniffed.

"Actually, you're right," I added. Not that I agreed that any girl should go about with a timberland under her arms, but for the sole purpose of coming to my darling sister's aid in this her hour of need. "Scientists say that the hairs there are meant to transmit pheromones."

"What are pheromones?" Eugene asked.

"They are secretions that men and women have without being aware of it," my father explained. "They play a part in the attraction between men and women."

That was one thing that sickness and poverty had not been able to snatch from him. My father was a walking encyclopedia, and he flipped his pages with the zeal and precision of a magician. He knew every theory of science and every city in the atlas; he knew every word in the dictionary and every scripture in the Holy Bible. It was such a pity that all the things he knew were not able to put money in his pocket.

"No wonder," Eugene said seriously. "Like that houseboy on the third floor who's always staring at her whenever she's walking back from school. I guess it's not really her fault the sort of people her own pheromones attract."

He laughed and choked at his own joke while the rest of us stifled our amusement for the sake of solidarity with Charity. All of us but one. My father transmitted an icy frown that froze the dancing muscles on Eugene's face. We all looked back to our plates. I realized that mine was empty. It was little episodes like this that made it easier for me to forget just how much like sawdust our meals tasted.

Chapter Two

Being careful not to disturb Godfrey slumbering beside me, I crawled out of bed and changed into a pair of trousers and T-shirt. Breath stale and hair as disheveled as a cheap barrister's wig, I made my way out to the kitchen, which served as the route for most of the traffic in and out of our house. The front door was reserved for special visitors. People like my father's sisters and my secondary school principal.

"Bro. Kingsley, good morning," Odinkemmelu and Chikaodinaka said.

They always woke early to begin their chores.

"Bro. Kingsley, are you went far away or should we kept your breakfast for you by the time you came back?" Odinkemmelu asked.

It was not the boy's fault that his tenses were firing bullets all over the place. Before he came to live with us about two years ago, Odinkemmelu had never set foot outside the village and the only English he knew was "I want eat." Over time, his vocabulary had improved. But when it came to tenses, he was never quite sure whether he was standing in the present or dwelling in the past.

Although his position on the family tree could not be described in anything less than seven sentences, Odinkemmelu was introduced to us as our cousin. Chikaodinaka was a more clearly identified relative. She was my father's cousin's niece. Both Odinkemmelu and Chikaodinaka offered their services without pay. Their reward wasn't kind. Leaving the village and coming to stay with relatives in town was the only opportunity they might ever get to learn English, watch television, live in a house with electricity, use a toilet that had a water system, or learn a trade.

"I'm just going to the post office," I replied. "I'll eat when I get back."

I stepped out into the young morning and walked briskly with my heart playing sweet music. This could be the day that changed my life. For the first few minutes, the only sound that disrupted the early morning calm was the dance steps of dry leaves and debris in the Harmattan breeze. Gradually, a new sound joined in.

"Come and receive divine intervention! For nothing is impossible with God!"

Ring! Ring!

"Come and receive a touch from God! Our God is a God of miracles!"

Ring! Ring!

Soon, I bumped into a group of young men and women dressed in white T-shirts and black bottoms. Their T-shirts were imprinted with some verse of scripture or the other; they were clapping and dancing and chanting Christian choruses. Most of them jangled tambourines. One blared into a loudspeaker.

"Come and receive a touch from God!" he announced. "Your life will never remain the same again!"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from I DO NOT COME TO YOU BY CHANCE by ADAOBI TRICIA NWAUBANI Copyright © 2009 by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2009

    Great Debut

    This new author has provided us with a fascinating read that gives its readers a unique insight into the workings of life behind the scenes in the world of Nigerian online scams. The fictional characters in this book draw you in and engage you enough to keep you turning the pages right up to the end. Just the right amount of humor is infused into the book to keep you laughing and shaking your head in disbelief as you are drawn deep into the tales of greed and desperation in this book. This book is really great for topical conversations over dinner! It's a great complement to all the news stories that one encounters on this issue. A very well written novel indeed. Looking forward to the next book from this author!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    THE STORY WAS EASY READING AND GREAT FOR UNWINDING

    I ENJOYED THE STORY BEING THAT A NIGERIAN TRIED TO SCAM ME AND MY EX-HUSBAND WHO IS FROM AFRICA....IT ACTUALLY CONFIRMED OUR SUSPICIONS.

    ABOUT THE BOOK I WANTED MORE TO HAPPEN FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER...I ENJOYED IT HOWEVER.

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    Posted May 14, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2010

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