Vivid, powerful stories of contemporary Nigeria, from a talented young author
* An NPR, Flavorwire, and Largehearted Boy Best Book of the Year * One of the Millions's Most Anticipated Books of 2013 *
When it comes to love, things are not always what they seem. In contemporary Lagos, a young boy may pose as a woman online, and a maid may be suspected of sleeping with her employer and yet still become a young wife's confidante. Men and women can be objects of fantasy, the subject of beery soliloquies. They can be trophies or status symbols. Or they can be overwhelming in their need.
In the wide-ranging stories in Love Is Power, or Something Like That, A. Igoni Barrett roams the streets with people from all stations of life. A man with acute halitosis navigates the chaos of the Lagos bus system. A minor policeman, full of the authority and corruption of his uniform, beats his wife. A family's fortunes fall from love and wealth to infidelity and poverty as poor choices unfurl over three generations. With humor and tenderness, Barrett introduces us to an utterly modern Nigeria, where desire is a means to an end, and love is a power as real as money.
While most of the nine stories in Barrett's strong second collection (after From Caves of Rotten Teeth) have Nigeria as their backdrop, the emotional turbulence they capture should strike any reader as universal. Equal time is devoted to rich and poor throughout, and in circumstances both tragic and droll. Many of the stories involve travel, such as the collection's opener, "The Worst Thing That Happened," about an ailing woman making her way across town to visit her daughter; or "My Smelling Mouth Problem," which finds a man with severe halitosis on the bus ride from hell. The smart "Dream Chaser," here reworked from a version published in Barrett's first effort, provides a brief glimpse inside a cybercafe where teenagers safely hunt financial prey from behind computer screens. "Godspeed and Perpetua" contrasts the unsettled history of a young family to that of the Nigerian Civil War. And the collection's title story one of the best delivers a strong look at corruption and power in the guise of a frustrated police officer lost among his peers.