These worlds—rich and poor, urban and rural, privileged and powerless, Muslim and Christian, Igbo and Yoruba—collide to spectacular effect as their paths cross and power shifts hands in surprising and unexpected ways, and then does so again, and again. It is an unlikely plot, but Ms Onuzo pulls it off, revealing the fault lines in her country’s society—or indeed those of any half-formed democracy. Though drenched in Lagosian atmosphere, the book wears its Nigerian setting lightly: it is clearly the work of a pan-African and an internationalist—and is all the better for it.
It is a true testament to Onuzo’s natural storytelling skills that she orchestrates, with humor, panache and multilingualism, the meeting of all these characters ... To her credit, despite the multiplying points of view and the ever-ensuing drama, Onuzo never really cedes control of the plot even as it twists in unbelievable ways, and as it shifts from Lagos to London, a move that diffuses the not-so-novel focus of the book — rampant greed and corruption know no bounds in today’s Nigeria — but abides by the transnational currents in recent fiction from writers with Nigerian roots.
How do you take the teeming microcosm that is Lagos, set it against a backdrop of Nigeria’s slow suicide by oil, and still manage to write one helluva novel? You weave a crisp story that uses well-fleshed characters and a razor-tight plot and stick closely to the 'show not tell' philosophy ... What follows is a tangy Ocean’s Eleven–esque escapade that exposes class and ethnic divides in the country even as it manages to mock the West for its colonial gaze toward the African continent as a whole. Full of nuance, the story spares no one as it careens toward its satisfying finale.
...an earnest — though at times frustratingly frenetic — portrait of Nigeria’s sprawling metropolis ... Unfortunately, in the second half of the book, Onuzo sacrifices meditative sketches of the city to narrative momentum ... As Onuzo attempts to juggle the stories of these individuals (and many others), the novel abandons its portrait of Lagos in favor of fast-paced comedy ... But despite the blunders, missteps and excessive plot twists of Welcome to Lagos, its dialogue rings true. Conversations between Onuzo’s characters move fluidly between Igbo, Yoruba, pidgin and English, demonstrating her skilled ear ... Navigating these urban landscapes requires a willingness to experiment with the delicate interplay of individual stories while preserving the city’s character. Welcome to Lagos starts this way, but by the end Onuzo has split her narrative into too many parts.
With Nollywood-like storylines and clever turns in plot, the book paints an entertaining and funny picture of Lagos life and Nigerian politics ... We sense Onuzo’s attempt to go against the conventional wisdom of Lagos. Greed is countered with charity, selfishness is juxtaposed with altruism. She seems to be imposing a traditional African moral vision on the city, and maybe even expressing a wishful vision of her country, of different 'tribes' living harmoniously under one roof, each striving for the betterment of the whole. Onuzo’s portrayal of human character is often too optimistic, her view of politics and society too charitable; but her ability to bring her characters to life, including the city of Lagos, perhaps the best-painted character of all, is impressive.
Welcome to Lagos casts an entertainingly scathing eye on many aspects of Nigerian society, from oil-hungry corporations to ambitious reporters and the rivalries among ethnic groups. If some characters aren’t fully fleshed out, the novel’s breakneck pace and intricate plotting are nevertheless a treat to savor. This is a winning sophomore effort from a writer to watch.
Onuzo’s novel is at once a Robin Hood tale and a cross section of Nigerian society, and though she takes on a lot in terms of both themes and characters, she shepherds it along smoothly. She avoids grand defining statements about Lagos, smartly letting the predicaments of each character show how the city’s lawlessness runs parallel to its bustle ... A well-turned tribute to the freedom and frustrations of a diverse city.