Heaven: February Book Group - I Do not Come to you by Chance

SarasaSarasa Shipmate
edited July 2020 in Limbo
This month we move from late nineteenth century/early twentieth century rural Canada to modern day urban Nigeria, with a very different book choice. It's Adaobi Tricia Nwaubami's I Do not Come to you by Chance. Kingsley gets sucked into the world of email scamming to help provide for his family.
As usual questions on or about the 20th.

Comments

  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    I'd like to read this one -- I'll see if I can get hold of it.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    I bought a digital copy online. It wasn't too expensive as it is only 195 pages. I have already finished it so ready to join in the discussion!
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    I was thinking I hadn't heard from any of these type of scammers in the book for a long time, but just checked my spam box to see if an email I wanted had gone there by mistake and found some doozies! Mrs. Horst from Germany is dying from cancer and her kid and husband also died and what will she do with the money from late husband's West African oil wells and diamond mines? Oh, she wants me to get it released from her bank accounts so it can be used to further Christian ministries around the world. Guess they are going for charitable Mugus (scam victims)!
  • I just requested the book from our sister campus up the river.
  • Good there are a few of us joining in. Always room for more.
  • Autenrieth RoadAutenrieth Road Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    I’ll be in. I decided that this year if I couldn’t find the Ship monthly book in my usual free sources, I’d go ahead and buy it. So I’ve bought this on Kindle.
  • I've downloaded it, so I'm in this month. It sounds intriguing.
  • My copy arrived today.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    Just started it today and enjoying it so far.
  • I am a little over a quarter of the way through it. Quite enjoyable.
  • I’ll post questions on the 20th to start the discussion.
  • Finished it on the weekend. Looking forward to the discussion.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    Yes, I've now finished it as well.
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    Mili wrote: »
    I was thinking I hadn't heard from any of these type of scammers in the book for a long time, but just checked my spam box to see if an email I wanted had gone there by mistake and found some doozies! [snip] (scam victims)!

    Perhaps I can top that experience ! Just after finishing this book about Nigerian spammers, I received a letter through the old-fashioned, "snail mail" post which appears to come from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK to say that I have overpaid my UK tax and so HMRC owes me several thousand pounds.

    Since I have not been resident or working in the UK for the past several decades, this came as something of a surprise.

    However, I did pay substantial UK tax a couple of years ago, when I shifted my pension funds to Australia, so the letter could conceivably be genuine - the more so since it did not ask me for any payment. So I look forward, though with scepticism, to receiving a cheque from Her Majesty's government , which is supposedly "in the mail".
  • My goodness! All reports of scams and non-scams should be duly registered on this thread! In order to keep things orderly, a slight fee of $4500 per report is required, which I shall be happy to receive from you on behalf of the Not Quite Proper Authorities...

    ...no wait, that’s the wrong email.

    Ah, here’s the right one:

    To start off the discussion, what led you to want to read the book? And if it was simply because it was the next Ship Book Group book, when did you find yourself hooked by it?

    I’ll post some more questions tomorrow.
  • I just looked in my spam folder and discovered an email from the Tax office claiming I owe them £495.00. It doesn't seem like a very serious attempt to get money out of me as the email seems to be cut and pasted from various other forms and doesn't make a great deal of sense. On the other hand my sister in law was recently scammed out of £6,500 for 'underpayment of VAT.' She is self-employed and would have normally realised that it was a scam. However she is under a lot of stress as my brother is seriously ill and she wasn't paying attention.
    Anyway back to the book. I read it as it was suggested for the book group and I thought it was a good idea to put it on the programme for this year, as I don't remember us reading anything from Africa recently, and this sounded like it would be a interesting read. I finished it last night, having got diverted in the middle into going back to another book in the Anne of Green Gables series. I'm looking forward to the discussion.
  • To answer the first question, I decided to read the book after checking an online synopsis. I probably never would have read it unless it was this month's book. I am not sure I could say i was ever hooked by it.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    The fact that it was this month's book group selection dovetailed very nicely with my general attempt to read more diverse authors from different communities and different parts of the world, and my specific plan (noted on the general reading thread) to read only black authors during Black History Month. I thought a Nigerian author, writing (ISTM) mainly for Nigerian readers, would be a nice change from the usual African-American or black Canadian or British writer, in giving me another perspective. I'm glad I read it becaue I really enjoyed it!
  • Some more questions. Answer whichever ones interest you, and/or pose your own questions.

    2. What do you think of Kingsley? Good... bad... flawed (in what ways?)... responsible... irresponsible... etc.?

    3. The fight with Gideon: is Kingsley upholding or betraying his family’s values? Is the scene ironic? If so, how?

    4. The framing device of prologue and epilogue from Augustina’s third person point of view. Why do you think Nwaubani frames the novel in this way?

    5. What parts or aspects of the novel did you like best? Which did you like least?

    6. What does it mean that Kingsley ends up married to a “Thelma”?

    7. What kinds of roles do women fill in the book? What kinds of roles do men fill? Are there any characters who could have been drawn as either male or female? Why or why not?

    8. How do issues of race and colonialism figure in the novel?
  • TukaiTukai Shipmate
    Question: what led you to want to read the book? And if it was simply because it was the next Ship Book Group book, when did you find yourself hooked by it?

    My answer: My wife said I would probably enjoy this book. As usual (!?) she was right. What kept me reading, especially after Cash Daddy was introduced, was the question: what is going to happen to Kingsley in the end? Will he get it on with Ola? Will he finish in jail ? Or get rich and live the high life ever afterwards? And , thanks to good writing, there were enough incidents and narrative drive to keep me reading, with the end of each chapter being a cliff-hanger.

    Question: The framing device of prologue and epilogue from Augustina’s third person point of view. Why do you think Nwaubani frames the novel in this way?

    My answer: The Prologue kicked me off on the wrong foot. It struck me as an unnecessary diversion from the real story. On the other hand, labelling the last chapter as an Epilogue clearly signalled that its action takes place a reasonably long time after the rest of the book. It is thus positioned well (in my mind) to answer the question: how does this all end up for Kingsley? The sly intrusion of Mr Winterbottom's phone call gives the game away in a well-crafted heavy hint by the author.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    2. What do you think of Kingsley? Good... bad... flawed (in what ways?)... responsible... irresponsible... etc.?

    I loved Kingsley, as a character and a narrator. He's such a good, but flawed, person. I love how much he wanted to do the right thing, and had to justify a life of crime because he really saw no other good options. The one thing I didn't like is that he seems REALLY naive/oblivious sometimes. How did he not know right away, from the first time he visits Ola at college and she's wearing the fancy watch and has put his pictures away, that she has another, richer boyfriend? It seemed absolutely unbelievable that he would be dumb enough not to pick up on that, even though he did have her on quite a pedestal.
    4. The framing device of prologue and epilogue from Augustina’s third person point of view. Why do you think Nwaubani frames the novel in this way?

    I agree with Tukai that the Prologue felt like it belonged to a different novel (although I would have read and enjoyed that one too). But I felt like it was necessary background, to understand the kind of family Kingsley came from, the kind of people his parents were and the values the family held. That bit of backstory was a good way to introduce that.

    As for the epilogue -- I thought that was brilliant. Because I think the reader wants to believe, as Augustina does, that with Cash Daddy's death Kingsley has turned aside from the 419 business and made a success for himself in a legitimate business, so that he has the best of both worlds -- honour and the ability to help his family with his wealth. But of course we know that's too good of an ending to be true, and though Augustina believes it, the reader has that little extra bit of info that comes through the call from Mr. Winterbottom, so that we know Kingsley's thriving business is presumably still just a front for his less legitimate business interests.
    5. What parts or aspects of the novel did you like best? Which did you like least?

    There wasn't very much that I didn't like. I loved the humour, which often showed up in those little throw-away descriptions of people. I loved the way the language sounded like it was English written by and for an African audience, not something filtered through the lens of British or American English. And I truly cared about Kingsley and what happened to him. I was kind of sad that he didn't truly "go straight" at the end, but as I said above, I don't think it would have been realistic, unless he was to go back to living in poverty and all the family with him.
    6. What does it mean that Kingsley ends up married to a “Thelma”?

    7. What kinds of roles do women fill in the book?

    I'm answering both these together because I think they're linked. This is a story about a man told from a man's point of view by a woman writer, and I think the portrayal of women is somewhat stereotyped and shallow but I think it's very clear that that's Kingsley's narrow view of women, not the authors (and not what the women are actually like themselves). Kingsley has something almost like the virgin/whore dichotomy when it comes to women -- there are "good women" like his mother, Ola, and the aptly-named Merit, and he can't aspire to one of those while he's involved in crime. And then there are the literal sex workers who he sleeps with and despises. But I think the "Thelmas and Sandras" occupy a middle ground between those two poles -- women he views as shallow and frivolous, that he doesn't outright despise but can't truly respect. And since he himself has ended up in a sort of middle place at the end -- outwardly respectable but with his hands not truly clean of the 419 business -- a Thelma is the only kind of woman he can see himself marrying.

    But I also think it's clear that the women themselves are much more complex than Kingsley sees them as being.
    9. How do issues of race and colonialism figure in the novel?

    So many ways! I think the most interesting for me is the justification that Cash Daddy and others use for robbing white people in the 419 business. Basically, look at all that Americans and Europeans have robbed from African countries, in large ways, over the centuries -- we are just getting a bit of that back, in small ways. Obviously it wouldn't make me feel any better about it if someone I know was robbed by one of those scams (although at this point, surely anyone who gets fooled by one is really being wilfully ignorant? Doesn't everyone know the warning signs by now? This story is set a few years ago when these scams were a newer phenomenon), but I can see how it makes sense as a justification to at least some of the African characters. Kingsley can never truly believe what he's doing is right, but it soothes his conscience somewhat to think about it as payback for colonialism.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    I read the book mainly because it was next on the book club list, but one of the reasons I like the book club is that it introduces me to and pushes me to read books I might not come across or choose to read otherwise. I also like to read books by authors from different backgrounds, otherwise it can be easy to fall into reading old favourites or books from favourite genres by white, female authors, even though there are many other great books out there.

    2. What do you think of Kingsley? Good... bad... flawed (in what ways?)... responsible... irresponsible... etc.?

    He started with his heart in the right place, but was let down by greed and pretty hypocritical about other people. On the plus side most of his motivation was to help his family, however when he had a chance to start a legitimate business he decided to continue scamming people. He was also terribly sexist and had double standards when it came to women - eventually he settled for a woman he considered beneath himself and immoral, however he had been engaging in the same behaviours he judged in his girlfriends. I was pretty happy that Merit turned him down, as she deserved better. I liked Aunt Dimma and it got up my nose that Kingsley considered she was bad, because she left her no-good husband and was independent in her personal and business life.

    3. The fight with Gideon: is Kingsley upholding or betraying his family’s values? Is the scene ironic? If so, how?

    Kingsley seemed to be upholding his parent's values, but took things too far. One of the confronting parts of the books was the severe physical punishments against children. So in a way he was just continuing a pattern. However given he was now the head of the family, it was unfair of him to expect his siblings, especially his younger brothers, would not follow his example.


    5. What parts or aspects of the novel did you like best? Which did you like least?

    Although I found the book really readable and interesting, as well as funny in parts, I also found it pretty depressing. Augustine was so happy at the end that Kingsley was supposedly running an honest, successful business, when he really wasn't. Plus all the issues around unemployment, poverty, trusting (if greedy) people being scammed etc. The part where Kingsley sees the murdered thieves is particularly disturbing and shows a big contrast between what happens to rich criminals and poor criminals who are just stealing to survive.

    6. What does it mean that Kingsley ends up married to a “Thelma”?

    Did he actually marry Thelma? Or was she just his girlfriend? Unfortunately, given how he judged women like Thelma, it is likely that if he did marry her he would follow Cash Daddy's example and continue having affairs and sex with sex workers. He had chosen to not be the best man he could, and partly blamed that on not having a 'good woman' like his mother to help him be a better man. He really seemed to believe that if Ola or Merit had married him he would have been a better husband and father.

    8. How do issues of race and colonialism figure in the novel?

    The book makes a good point that the Nigerian scammers feel justified in scamming 'Westerners' due to the wrongs of colonialism and the fact that wealthy countries built that wealth on the back of slavery and colonialism and also the current racism against Africans. However, I still felt bad for the scammed in the book and frustrated that these type of scams further racism and negative stereotypes of people in African. Some of those who were scammed were really greedy, but others were thought they were in genuine relationships and helping out a girlfriend or boyfriend.

    A lot of real scamming victims are much poorer than the rich 'Cash Daddy' type scammers who scam them. It's one thing for someone unemployed to take advantage of a truly rich westerner, but another when a scammer has become rich from their crimes to scam ordinary people who can't afford to lose their life savings. I'm glad to live in a country with a welfare system, but it is pretty stingy and not that easy to live off or find public housing in. I guess Kingsley and other real scammers are not aware of that, though, and his father's health experiences show that having no welfare system or affordable health care is much worse.
  • My least favourite part of the book was the death of Cash daddy. It seemed contrived to setup Winterbottom's call on the last page.
  • 2. What do you think of Kingsley? Good... bad... flawed (in what ways?)... responsible... irresponsible... etc.?
    Kingsley was a flawed, but very believable character. I thought he trod a fine line between the responsible and the irresponsible. He took seriously the fact that he was considered the senior member of his family after his dad's death, and if that meant working for his uncle he seemed to think that was the price he had to pay.

    3. The fight with Gideon: is Kingsley upholding or betraying his family’s values? Is the scene ironic? If so, how?
    I think this ties in with the above, Kingsley liked the trappings of his new found wealth, but he was aware of what he'd had to sacrifice to get it (girls like Merit for a start). He probably wouldn't have acted quite so violently if she hadn't just dumped him.

    4. The framing device of prologue and epilogue from Augustina’s third person point of view. Why do you think Nwaubani frames the novel in this way?
    I didn't like the prologue, in fact it made me rather wary of the book as a whole. The end was very clever, we needed to see Kingsley from the outside, and I wonder how much of the business was legit.

    5. What parts or aspects of the novel did you like best? Which did you like least?
    It took me a long while to get into it, but when Kingsley ended up working for Cash Daddy I thought it really took off and I started to enjoy it. I liked the insight into a totally different world and mindset, but didn't like the way people were getting scammed. I thought the fate of Azuka who got caught up in his own scamming was chilling, and I liked that I cared for the characters, even Cash Daddy despite what they were up to.

    6. What does it mean that Kingsley ends up married to a “Thelma”?
    I wasn't all together convinced by Kingsley's love life, though I thought his naivety over Ola was rather charming. Kingsley might think he is a new man, but his attitude to Auntie Dimma and a lot of the other women in the book show he is pretty traditional in his outlook.

    7. What kinds of roles do women fill in the book? What kinds of roles do men fill? Are there any characters who could have been drawn as either male or female? Why or why not?
    I'm not sure if any of them could have been the other sex. It was interesting that marrying a man with a British or American passport that Charity wants to do and Ola does is seen as a legitimate way out for women. I was glad we got to meet Ola.

    8. How do issues of race and colonialism figure in the novel?
    I found the fact that things like McVities biscuits were luxuries which must have something to do with the colonial past. I found it interesting reading something from inside another culture, the fact of the Winterbottom's of this world couldn't tell one black man from another, and the fact that Cash Daddy assumed that in the west being scammed wouldn't really have that much effect on someone's life because of the safety net of the welfare state.
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