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Chi­bundu Onuzo, Cat­a­pult (MAY) Hard­cover $26 (304pp), 978-1-936787-80-7

Wel­come to La­gos, Chi­bundu Onuzo’s US de­but, fol­lows an un­likely group of Nige­ri­ans bound to­gether by cir­cum­stance. As their lives con­verge, five trav­el­ers from the Niger Delta are thrown to­gether with two of Nige­ria’s priv­i­leged class; high class or low, all of them must sur­vive La­gos it­self.

In the Niger Delta, Chike Ameobi and Yemi Oke, two disaf­fected sol­diers, desert their post. Flee­ing, they pick up the hu­man de­tri­tus of their ac­tions: Fineboy, a young rebel sol­dier, and Iso­ken, the teenage or­phan he may have tried to rape. Spot­ted as de­sert­ers, they’re forced to take these two wit­nesses to La­gos, too.

A fel­low trav­eler, Oma, helps them find a ho­tel. She stays too. They’ve ar­rived, but suddenly they’re five. Mean­while, the tides are shift­ing among La­gos’s elite. While the min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion, Chief San­dayo, de­cides he won’t go qui­etly if he’s re­placed, the Nige­rian Jour­nal‘s ed­i­tor in chief, Ahmed Bakare, wants to com­bat the coun­try’s stag­nant cor­rup­tion. Soon, La­gos will bring them to­gether for a mo­ment that sub­verts and con­firms ev­ery­thing they’ve ever known.

La­gos as a fram­ing de­vice il­lus­trates the shift­ing, of­ten ten­u­ous con­nec­tions be­tween the pub­lic and pri­vate lives of Nige­ria’s cit­i­zenry, and the speci­ficity of Onuzo’s de­tails fully em­bod­ies each char­ac­ter. Both con­cor­dance and wit­ness to the story of its peo­ple, from the wealthy elite to those dis­ap­pear­ing into the anony­mous dark­ness found un­der its bridges, La­gos is full of “[big] cars, mod­els you would never see any­where else in Nige­ria. Large houses. Money ev­ery­where. And un­der these fan­tas­tic sto­ries of riches, al­ways a layer of un­ease: of day­light rob­beries and mys­te­ri­ous disappearances.”

Threaded with a buoy­ant de­spair, Wel­come to La­gos is a “ra­tio­nale to ex­plain a world that never got bet­ter. De­spite one’s best ef­forts, de­spite one’s high­est hopes: the world did not change.”

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