Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Baptizing the Gun

by Uwem Akpan

I always enjoy fiction that brings to life a location that I will probably never know. Akpan's short story is set in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria, the country in which he lives and works as a priest, as does his narrator.

The priest borrows his brother's car and attempts to drive across the city. The car breaks down, and he is assisted by a large and insistent man, who then insists on riding with him back home. This chain of events creates a real sense of dread in the narrator, who knows too many stories of people being robbed or murdered in this way; after all, it is commonplace to drive over bodies that were tossed in the road.

Akpan delivers a bleak, yet ultimately unexpected look, into life in the slums and shantytowns of Lagos, one of the biggest cities on Earth. His prose is crisp and to the point, and he does a great job of playing with the priest's perceptions and snap judgments of others.

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