I Do Not Come To You By Chance – Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

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Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010, Best First Book: Africa.

The short list for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize was announced last month and I was immediately drawn towards this book which centres on the world of a Nigerian email scammer. I am really pleased that I impulsively read this book, as I found it fascinating.

I Do Not Come to You by Chance follows Kingsley, a young Nigerian man who has a good education and a promising career ahead of him. His world is shattered when his father becomes ill and the family is unable to afford the treatment needed to save his life. Desperate to help his father, Kingsley turns to his mysteriously wealthy uncle and gets drawn in to the bizarre world of the email scammer:

At first, it was difficult. Composing cock-and-bull tales, with every single word an untruth, including ‘is’ and ‘was’. Blasting SOS emails around the world, hoping that someone would swallow the bait and respond. But I was probably worrying myself for nothing. They were just a bunch of email addresses with no real people at the other end anyway. Besides, who on this earth was stupid enough to fall prey to an email from a stranger in Nigeria?

The plot was quite simple and the writing wasn’t particularly beautiful, but the insight into the life of an email scammer had me hooked. I was fascinated by their activities – continually amazed by what they managed to get away with. I’d love to know how many of the events in this book had actually occurred. This is one of those books that I was telling everyone about, unable to believe that people actually respond to those dodgy emails we all get.

This book also had a very African feel to it. I loved the snippets of African mythology, all presented in a way that was easy for me to understand. It also raised some thought provoking questions, mainly revolving around whether or not it is OK to steal from the gullible rich, to give to the poorest in society.

Overall this was an amusing, insightful and ultimately uplifting tale about an underground world I previously knew nothing about.

Highly recommended.

Are you planning to read anything short listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize?


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49 Comments

  1. Verity says:

    I enjoyed this one too – can’t remember where I came across it. I didn’t know it had been shortlisted for the CWP – in fact I didn’t really know that the prize existed.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, It is good to know I’m not the only one that has come across this one. I love the CWP – I’ll have to do a post on it at some point, as they do seem to choose different books from other prizes.

  2. Mome Rath says:

    I’ve heard about this book, and had meant to look up the title again. Thanks for bringing it back to mind! I don’t know if I’ll read anything else on the Commonwealth Short List this year, but I might read this one. Incidentally, I recognize Albert Wendt on the short list — I just read his Leaves of the Banyan Tree (or The Banyan) at the end of 2009.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mome Rath, I haven’t heard of Leaves of the Banyan Tree before. In fact I hadn’t heard of many of the books on the list. I hope you decide to pick this one up – it is very good. I’ll go and look up Albert Wendt now – thanks for pointing him out.

  3. Iris says:

    I didn’t know a commonwealth prize existed, but this sounds like a fascinating read. I often doubt people falling for emails such as these, especially since they’ve been out there for so long, but I guess there are always newcomers to the internet that do not yet know about the bad things going on online. And, my grandfather of 84 years old often gets sold things by phone, simply because they play on either his emotions or his lack of understanding of some things he’s told.

    Wasn’t it hard to read about someone who does that sort of thing and yet knowing he sort of has to because of his father?

    (I wish I could leave a coherently formulated comment for once)

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, I do wonder what type of people fall for these scams. I’d like to read another book from the POV of a person who was scammed! It is sad that people fall for these, but if you read the book then you actually get some sympathy for the scammers.

  4. I hadn’t heard of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize before, but I will check it out now. I would have to agree with you when I say that I don’t really think about the people behind those email scams. I guess it would indeed be interesting to find out what kind of people create those scams and why they do it. I will check it out some time.

    Oh btw, should probably introduce myself first. My name is Susi and I’ve only recently (really recently) started coming out of the woodwork. I’ve been a lurker on your blog for quite a while now, but I’ve only now decided to create my own blog and to participate actively in the community. Anyway, I hope to keep up with all you. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Susi, You should have a good look at the CWP – I have enjoyed all the winning books I’ve read from past years. I really should read more of them.

      Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time *heads off to look at your lovely new blog*

      1. Wow, just realised that I might not have known the prize by its name, but I’ve read a couple of the winners, my favourite Jhumpa Lahiri among them. Well, now I know of yet another literary award with a really long list of winners that I would love to read. TBR-list, here I come with new additions. :)

  5. Sandy says:

    You have really expanded your horizons with some excellent African literature, and this one is no exception. I wouldn’t have give it a second glance had you not mentioned it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Thanks. I hope you decide to pick this one up – it is so funny!

  6. Beth F says:

    You certainly gave it high marks, which makes me curious about a book I would otherwise not bother with.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I think that you’d enjoy this one – quirky and amusing. I hope you decide to pick it up.

  7. Stujallen says:

    this sounds great Jackie ,was on my radar so to speak i ve a lot of african fiction on tbr at mo ,but will read this one at some point probably via library

    1. Jackie says:

      Stujallen, I’m quickly discovering that your radar is very special! You always seem to know about these great books. I hope you decide to read it at some point as it is wonderful.

  8. Shannon says:

    This sounds interesting, I’ve always wondered about these email scams and it’s cool to see it put into a fiction book.

    I think I’ll be checking out most of the books on the list, especially the Canadian ones, but most likely all of them. I love things like this that celebrate the diversity of our world and help you discover the emerging authors.

    1. Jackie says:

      Shannon, I think most of the books on the CWP are fairly unknown. I love the way it highlights some of the lesser known books. I highly recommend getting any book from the short list – they are normally very good.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I am completely unfamiliar with this one but it sounds like it would be interesting and fun.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, It is! I hope you decide to pick up a copy!

  10. Andreea says:

    Email scams – I received a lot of them and I also wondered a lot about them. It’s really interesting that there’s a book about these things. I must say that I am curious about this book. Nice review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andreea, Reading this book has actually made me read the email scams I get. I see them in a whole new light now.

  11. Jenny says:

    How intriguing! I’d never heard of this one, but I do want to try to read more African literature this year. Funny to have a book about this, with all the Nigerian prince jokes in popular culture these days. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I’m pleased I bought a new book to your attention.

  12. Teresa says:

    I’m trying to avoid reading through shortlists these days (too many books on my own shelves to read), but I was tempted by the Commonwealth shortlist because it does fit in with my aspiration to read more works in translation. I will be adding this to my list of books to look out for–the premise is irresistible.

    There was, incidentally, a fabulous story on the US radio show, This American Life, about someone who attempted to scam a Nigerian scammer. I’m not sure the shows are accessible from the UK, but it was pretty amazing: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/363/Enforcers

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I’m rubbish at avoiding short lists! I always think I should read my own books, but then a shiny new short list comes along and I just can’t help myself!

      Thanks for the link. I am really intrigued by that story, so will give it a try later.

  13. Interesting… one of the short stories in Pettina Gappah’s collection, An Elegy for Easterly, is about a Zimbabwean man living in Geneva who is scammed by an email. Personally it bored me to tears but it is an intriguing premise as email scams are so prevalent and there do exist a lot of naive and unlucky recipients who are duped by them.

    I must check out the prize shortlist.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I’m almost tempted to pick up that short story, but as I’m not normally a fan of short stories I think I’ll avoid it.

  14. Bina says:

    Sounds like an interesting read. I´ve only noticed the book because of the cover, but I´m glad that the story itself is just as great. Hope my library will acquire it, I rarely read stories which take place in Africa.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bina, The cover and title didn’t really grab me – it was the premise that won it for me. I hope your library can get hold of it for you.

  15. Steph says:

    Love the premise of this book, and hadn’t heard of it until you mentioned it. Based on what you say about it, I’m sure I would wish for more artful writing, but diversity in one’s reading is a good thing, and it just sounds like an idea that’s too good to pass up. As you know, I really want to read more African literature, so I’ll be sure to try to find a copy of this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, There is nothing really wrong with the writing, it just doesn’t give you the full atmosphere, dragging you into the plot instead. Nothing wrong with that – sometimes you need that kind of book!

  16. Amy says:

    Sounds like a great book, I love that it is written from the point of view of the scammer. Funny enough, the book I reviewed today, Nikolski, briefly talks about a girl doing this sort of thing! Random coincidence, I think not. Obviously I need to read this book right away :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, Oooh – I have a copy of Nikolski here! I didn’t realise it had a similar premise. I’ll have to move it up the TBR pile!

      1. Amy says:

        Hmmm well I don’t want to get you too excited, I wouldn’t go so far as to say similar premise… it is mentioned in passing a few times but it doesn’t really go in depth into the issue.

        1. Jackie says:

          Amy, That’s OK – I wouldn’t want to read a book that covered exactly the same topic so soon after this one, but it is nice to know it is mentioned.

  17. Sandra says:

    I have this one and three others on my tbr list; In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (Pakistan), The People’s Train by Thomas Keneally (Aus), and Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest (Aus). Glad to know you enjoyed it, an interesting story and an original perspective for most of us.
    I’ve also read After the Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld (Aus), February by Lisa Moore (Canada), and The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon (Canada). All three were top drawer reads for me. (I know you weren’t blown away by After the Fire but I prefer introspection over action myself).
    I have most literary fiction prize lists posted but not this one yet, just busy keeping up with reading them all. I look forward to Nwaubani’s book now, thank you for reviewing it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandra, I’m impressed by the number you’ve read!
      I am intrigued by February, so will probably get round to reading that at some point. I haven’t heard much about The Golden Mean or Siddon Rock, but anything that anything on the CWP is worth looking into. I look forward to seeing your reviews for the rest of the ones on your TBR pile.

  18. Lu says:

    Love that cover! One of the stories in the graphic novel “The Eternal Smile” is about an email scammer and the woman he scams and I think it’s a fascinating relationship. I’m going to keep my eye out for this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lu, I haven’t heard of The Eternal Smile before, but I am always on the look out for good graphic novels so I’ll see if I can get hold of a copy – thanks for the recommendation.

  19. Kathleen says:

    This sounds wonderful. I’m always fascinated to learn who actually gets caught up by these email scams. I just read a book by a Nigerian author that had good doses of African folklore and mythology in it and really enjoyed it. I’m adding this one to my list.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, I sometimes get confused by African folklore, as I’m ashamed to say that I don’t really know much about it. I love books that contain it, hopefully I’ll slowly pick up enough to fully understand Ben Okri’s Famished Road one day!

  20. mee says:

    I love CWP! Well, I just read a couple of winner books, but so far I’m impressed. And you’re right they seem to pick up different books that the other awards. I look forward to your post about it. I intend to read more books from their catalogue of winners.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I’ve just posted about the CWP – I hope you find it useful.

  21. What a unique premise! I hadn’t heard of this title before (the only way I ever learn about books nominated or awarded prizes is through posts like this) but I’m certainly intrigued now.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I’m pleased to have bought it to your attention. I hope you enjoy it!

  22. I’ve got this one on my TBR shelf and I’m really excited to read it now! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Literary Kitty, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

  23. I have not heard of this book before (shame on me for not knowing about the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize even though I used to live in Australia! Now in the US… but I don’t usually pay attention to who wins what prizes I guess…) This sounds very interesting though as you hear so much about the scammers. Glad to see that my library has it :) Thanks for introducing this book!

    1. Jackie says:

      Christa, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! It is good to hear your library has a copy – I hope you enjoy finding out about all those scams!

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