Friday, May 21, 2010

Doing Dangerously Well - Carole Enahoro

Doing Dangerously Well is Carole Enahoro's debut. And it's one of Random House Canada's picks for their New Faces of Fiction.

Hey Random - good picking!

The unthinkable happens to the majestic Kainji Dam in Nigeria - it collapses - killing hundreds of thousands. This tragedy is met with great glee by the Nigerian Minister of Natural Resources, Ogbe Kolo. Now, he thinks, is the perfect time to make a run for the presidency and cut some deals with the Americans. Mary Glass of the US company TransAqua sees lots of opportunities as well and is more than willing to work with Kolo. First up - privatizing the Niger River and selling the water back to the Nigerians. This should earn her a promotion. Mary's sister Barbara has a problem with this and joins Femi - a Nigerian activist determined to stop Kolo. There are lots of others with an eye to the water rights and their own agendas.

Enahoro has an incredibly witty sense of humour. There is nothing sacred as she joyfully skewers every faction that comes under her pen. Politics, race, religion, sexuality, nationality, family, body image and more. Her satirical sense is sharply honed. I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

The dialogue is incredibly adroit, but the characters are what I really enjoyed. Barbara is the quintessential tree hugging, new age activist. She lives on her own terms and just barrels through any situation, dispensing her brand of wisdom as she passes through. Barbara's reactions to Canada and its people are priceless.

"Barbara was getting worried about these Canadians. They had a pathological cheeriness that certainly had no place in the world of international intrigue."

"They speak like Americans. They act American. They look American, but they're a separate country ? How stupid is that?

She seems to be the only one with a conscience as well. The relationship between Barbara, Mary and their parents is comical and tragic at the same time. The machinations at TransAqua are epic, making you question what really does go on behind closed doors.

"We're gonna be the ones controlling it and how much money we get for it. So we're making sure that national trade agreements define water as a commodity, not a human right as some tie- dyed Y-front wearing hippies are demanding."

But also within the novel are sad truths. Water rights are a story ripped from the headlines. Within the book are sobering pockets of reality that make you stop and think as you take a sip of water and look around your home.

Enahoro has skillfully blended sardonic prose with sobering reality to produce a dangerously good read.

Carol Enahoro grew up in Nigeria, Britain and Canada. She is working on a PhD reseaching satire and Nigerian urbanism.

Read an excerp of Doig Dangerously Well .


Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds like a great book - funny, but bringing up some serious issues.

bermudaonion said...

Great dialogue and humor sounds wonderful to me!