... dazzling and disquieting ... with robust descriptions, Igboland is a vibrant landscape replete with a nightmarish evil forest, comforting compounds, and the serene Idemili river. Once the lens shifts to Amalike, the folkloric prose, which is written as if translated from Igbo, shifts to a Western style that coincides with Ijeoma’s learning of English and forced Bible study ... Rife with magical realism and full of promise, the novel God of Mercy undertakes a scrupulous review of the destructive power of colonialism through an imprisoned, gifted girl.
Tradition and change clash to devastating effect in Okezie Nwoka's compelling and heartrending debut ... Nwoka writes with a sure rhythm all their own, slipping easily between structured passages and stream of consciousness inner monologues. Alternating between third-person narrative and the diary entries of a mysterious prisoner, God of Mercy translates major religious conflicts to a small, personal scale ... While the front matter includes a map and cast of characters, Nwoka trusts readers to follow the story without much expository cultural background, and the result feels authentic and organic. Book clubs looking for stories to inspire deep discussion need look no further.
The power in this novel lies in protagonist Ijeọma, who seeks out her truth for herself. With discerning dialogue and elegant prose, Nwọka chronicles the rise, decline, and resistance of Ijeọma’s village of Ichulu through the tale of her imprisonment in a Christian church that claims to 'save' witches and pagans ... a heavy book, but it is not designed to make a reader suffer, or realize the horrors of colonialism and missionary trips. The depictions of violence against children were difficult to read through, but at no point did the violence seem overtly graphic or designed to simply get a reaction from the reader. Rather, each scene was intentionally placed to make a larger point about wisdom and knowledge. I felt that the ending appropriately balanced grief, chaos, and redemption with the joyful youth that was robbed from Ijeọma and many of her fellow exiles in earlier chapters of the book.
Nwọka’s debut feels like a dream, or a fable, or something in between ... Nwọka uses epistolary passages as well as lyrical prose to tell a personal yet magical story. Recommended for fans of Nnedi Okorafor’s Remote Control or Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune.
... though the novel feels overlong considering its narrow scope, it has a pair of distinctive qualities that makes Nwoka worth continued attention. First is their command of different rhetorical modes. Within Ijeoma’s family and community, the prose is rhythmic and stylish; within Innocent’s world, it’s stentorian and shaped by cold logic. Second is an earned note of optimism that highlights Ijeoma’s indomitability in the face of tragedy. Oppression and fear are constants both within Ijeoma’s family and outside her enclave, but Nwoka also suggests the possibility of escape ... A well-turned dramatization of spiritual and social culture clashes.
... dense, mythologically charged ... Nwoka immerses the reader in an often-bewildering world, and though readers unfamiliar with the culture will have a tough time making sense of the parameters, those who stick with it will be rewarded with a rich sense of place. This stirring coming-of-age story holds its own in a recent wave of feminist fiction set in Africa.