Cover Image: God of Mercy

God of Mercy

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Member Reviews

Written in a style that evokes a fable, 'God of Mercy' is the story of a young girl named Ijeoma who can fly. In her village of Ichulu, Ijeoma's people resist the growing tide of colonialism and pray to the gods of their ancestors. Mostly they pray for protection and for answers. Ijeoma can't understand if her inability to speak is a blessing or curse from the gods and if her levitations are the same. When Ijeoma becomes friends with the ova (outsiders) of her village she herself is cast out and is consequently swept up into the congregation of Pastor Nwosu. Within this congregation, Ijeoma is imprisoned and accused of being a witch. Switching, narrative styles, we follow Ijeoma's journey through her diary entires. We experience the abuse inflicted upon her and the trials she faces under the eye of the white man's god. 

'God of Mercy' is not an easy book to read or to understand. I feel like any review I could possibly write would lack dimension and inevitably miss aspects that are central to these Nigerian characters and stories. What I can tell you is that this is so much more than a story about the evils of colonialism, religion, and missionaries. That is is more than generation trauma, enforced gender roles, and traditional mindsets. Through Ijeoma we can also turn a questioning eye on her surroundings and look inside ourselves for answers and understanding. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Despite the intriguing premise, the book was very difficult to follow. The beginning was truly magical, but then it was difficult to get into after that.
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2.5 stars

I am grateful to Astra Publishing House for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review.

This book had many great aspects that I really enjoyed, but ultimately there were some things that really did not work for me. Let's start with the positive points. The setting was great and really provided a wonderful backdrop for a story steeped in Igbo culture. The topics covered were numerous and loaded. We explore colonialism and the effect that foreign religions have on cultures when they come up against local beliefs. The religious fanaticism that we actually see in many post-colonial countries was accurately presented here, and we also get to see the corruption and politics that go hand-in-hand with that. The story also shows how this religious indoctrination happens even when the people involved do not benefit at all but are oppressed instead. And we see characters that represent people who turn a blind eye to the oppression and believe themselves innocent of the atrocities committed. So much to discuss here, I can see why people could love this, but still there were problems.

The story was not balanced. So much time was spent on the descriptions of physical abuse and torture of children. While this is a reality of the story, the in depth and continued descriptions of adults torturing children was not needed (in my opinion). There were almost no contradicting viewpoints or "normal" people presented in the story, but rather every character seemed to have lost their minds to this religious fanaticism, or was directly victimized by it. This made the story have a hopeless atmosphere and made all of the characters unappealing as people. The characters..... apart from our main character, there was no character development or depth at all. All of the other characters felt one dimensional and uninteresting.

Combining these issues with the plot points that were introduced then quickly abandoned, left us with a very heavy handed and unbalanced story that had potential but failed to deliver. I did not think this was a bad book, I but it was not a great reading experience.
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A tale of gods and mortals, God of Mercy creates a unique and beautiful history of one tribe's resistance of colonial influence. Uniquely told and gorgeously written.
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I feel bad for not giving this book a higher rating than 3 stars. It was simply magical at the very beginning. Somewhere in the middle the magic just evaporated, I just couldn't get a grip on the characters and the flow of the plot. It was a nice potential, such a shame.
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God of Mercy by Okezie Nwoka (⭐⭐✨)

I was given a free advanced readers' copy of this book from NetGalley and Astra House, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Astra House for giving me the opportunity to read and review a book outside my comfort zone!

I understand what this book was trying to do, but it didn't land for me. The author's writing style is incredibly unique, and reflects the cadences of Igbo in the words of English. The style takes a while of getting used to, but pulls the reader in and immerses them fully in the story.

However, unfortunately that's all I can say for this book. I wasn't impressed with the character development of anyone except Ijeoma, the main character, and even then I struggled to connect with her. The style of writing and plot created significant distance between the reader and the main character through her muteness and her actions, and even more distance between the reader and other characters whose actions were not particularly well explained - and more often told, rather than shown.

The book had an inherently interesting plot, with an Igbo girl who could fly and who was shunned by her family, and who found herself taken away to be persecuted by Christians in a neighbouring town, but it didn't extend much beyond this. There were a lot of musings on religion, and I learnt more about the Igbo religions in this book than I have ever before, but it bothered me that the book continued to condone the use of religion, in general, as a reason for mistreating people. If it made a different statement, I fear it was too subtle for me to notice and appreciate.

This is a very specific book, set in a very specific period, and dealing with very specific issues of religion and culture. I found it difficult to pay attention for long periods of time because I have little patience for religion in general, and the characters were not well-written enough to keep me attached to them. This book felt like something written by an author with more interest in the big ideas than in the characters discovering them, and that's where it let me down.
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A powerful, visceral retelling of a world that could have been, this novel reimagines the Igbo people as if they were not colonized. There is new life breathed into ancient mythology and a celebration of indigenous people. This is a novel for the ages.
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I requested this book when I read the premise because it sounded like it would be such a gripping  read. 

God of Mercy is set in Ichulu, an Igbo village where its people worship the gods. This tradition has allowed them to evade the influence of colonialism. But the village is overcome by change due to a war between the gods demonstrated through Ijeoma, a girl who can fly and who is mute. As tensions increase, Ijeoma is forced into exile and is imprisoned by a Christian church as she is accused of being a witch. Through isolation, Ijeoma is forced to examine faith and merciful love.

It took me quite a while to get into this novel. I struggled with the format to begin with. But once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. It is the story of the uncolonised and resisting colonisation, as surrounding villages are overtaken by Christianity. It is a deep examination of religious conflict. Keeping with tradition vs converting to the coloniser’s religion. Ijeoma is a brilliant protagonist too and as the book goes on, you do become attached to her. When she’s imprisoned, my mind was racing. I found the latter pages incredibly hard to read due to the torture and abuse the colonisers inflicted on the prisoners (a big trigger warning here). But it is a vast reminder of the impact colonialism has had. 

Overall, I think this is a brilliant debut novel. Nwoka dives into thought-provoking ideas. They bring about conversation on colonialism and its impact on faith and tradition. I think their debut will be talked about frequently on here in the weeks and months to come. 

Thank you to NetGalley & Astra House for allowing me to read this ARC.
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Somewhere in Igboland (a region in Nigeria) is the small, remote village of Ichulu. This village has resisted European languages and religions in spite of all outside pressure. Their Igbokwe talks to the gods on the villagers’ behalf, warning them of floods and praying for healing or boons. Life is good. But then a girl who can’t speak aloud begins to fly, which throws everything into question. In God of Mercy, the challenging novel by Okezie Nwọka, we see what happens when two men who are afraid of the wide world twist their traditions to try to control the girl who can fly.

Ijeọma is a sweet, caring girl who can fly in moments where she becomes transfixed by the beautiful, joyous world around her. But, because she doesn’t speak out loud (Ijeọma signs), it’s far too easy for everyone else in Ichulu to project their own thoughts onto her. Her mother sees her as a helpmeet. The Igbokwe thinks she’s a sign of divine favor. Her father, however, can only think of his failures when he looks at his oldest daughter. The more she flies—and the more she rises in everyone else’s esteem—the more Ijeọma’s father resents her. When he breaks, he betrays his family by giving Ijeọma to a Christian preacher who specializes in “curing” children who are different or who act out.

There are hints in the early chapters of God of Mercy about Ijeọma’s fate. Small extracts from a diary begin to appear that reveal the horrific, violent treatment Ijeọma receives after her father’s betrayal. Before long we also leave Ichulu and Ijeọma’s family and the Igbokwe to go to Amalike with Ijeọma, where a man who claims to be Christian but acts like anything but tries to “drive the demons” out of the flying girl for nine years. Just like everyone else in Ichulu, this preacher projects his own version of reality and his own ambitions onto Ijeọma.

The middle of God of Mercy up until the last few pages are very hard to read. The abuse suffered by Ijeọma and the other children being kept by the preacher is among the worst I have ever seen in fiction. I was able to make it through because, first, I just had to know if Ijeọma would make it out, and second, because I was fascinated by what this book showed me about faith. There are many true believers in God of Mercy. In spite of their piety, the villains in this book are the ones who are so committed to following their religions’ rules with unwavering devotion. They never wonder if there can be exceptions or that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter. And they never pause when their interpretation of their religion points them in dark directions. The kindest characters in God of Mercy—the ones I think of as the good characters—are the ones who can grow along with their faith. This book turned out to be a revelatory examination of faith and religion.
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This book is unlike any other. It took me a while to get engaged, because I struggled with the style of dialogue and the layout of the digital download I received. However, I don't want to criticize the ebook, because I hope these issues are sorted out in the final published novel. Okezie Nwoka gives us a unique journey through Nigerian mythology in a town that has resisted colonization. I loved this concept and our leading lady Ijeọma. As a mute character, Ijeọma emphasizes the importance of communication and connection across language barriers. I really enjoyed unpacking the complex themes in this novel. However, I would have enjoyed further character development. In addition to asking the big questions about colonization, tradition, and communication, this novel would have benefited from enhancing our connection to the characters. Personally, I would love to try this one again in the future with a finalized, physical copy I so I can annotate and flip back and forth as needed.
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This one just didn't work for me. The character development was fair at best. I didn't care much for anything going on and took me ages to read. I was hoping I'd like it better. In the end had to dnf.

Thank you @netgalley for this arc in return for my honest opinion.
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A young mute girl with an unusual ability is in turns ridiculed and revered by her family and tribe.
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I started this book with very high hopes to be blown away but that wasn't the case. There's nothing I enjoyed in this novel. Us, Nigerians, don't have a lot of novels steeped in Igbo mythology so I was expecting to learn more about the gods I already know, connect with the human beings but none of that happened. One thing that saddened me the most of was stiff dialogue. There was no life or passion in the conversations, it felt like the characters were reading from scripts. Also, the character development in this book is very weak, I didn't care about anyone. I didn't DNF this book because I had hope till the very end.
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Overall a beautifully written book. The writing style of this book is so unique and is either going to be love-it or hate-it. I liked the plot of the book and the character of Ijeoma. I learned a lot about Igbo culture. I thought that the journal entries were a bit weird but they were finally explained later on and it made a bit more sense.
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a beautifully written exploration on the way religion has been used in colonization through the story of a young girl who can fly and is accused of being a witch. 

this is a little slow to start, but once it gets going, it really is engaging. i owe this mostly to the way that the novel is written. the language of it is absolutely beautiful. i didn't particularly care for the diary entries interspersed throughout because you don't really learn what they mean until 3/4 of the way through the story. and the end was a little deus ex machina for my tastes, but not enough to disrupt my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. 

i was reminded of Rungano Nyoni's film I Am Not A Witch, for its similar themes of witchcraft and exploitation of young girls. so, if you enjoy that film, i'd rec this book and vice versa.
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It is unusual for me to be attracted to fantasy, but I was intrigued by Astra House’s description of “God of Mercy”. It promised to depict worlds as they were, are, and could realistically be. 

Okezie Nwoka’s striking debut kept my attention from beginning to end, in multiple ways. It is an homage to oral and written communication, beautifully captured in multiple languages and dialects. It is an education at the highest level in the spirituality and sociology of comparative religions. One cannot help but be struck by how the arrogance and violence of colonial Christian conversion dogma disturb and disrupt organic “of-the-earth” communities, cultures, and belief systems.

The star attraction is Iljeoma who is unable to speak, but able to fly. She is seen as a God by some, as the work of the Devil by others. She dominates every scene. All other characters react and respond knowing that she is something special – out of this world. 

I am sure that there were scores of subtilties that I missed and would pick up on during a second, closer reading. I will be on the lookout for Nwoka’s future work. He is clearly a muscular talent, and their future will be a joy to follow.

Thank you to Astra House and NetGalley for the eARC.
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To be honest, this book took me a long time to get into.  I was confused on page one; three words new to me that all started with the letter I!  I took this as a sign that this was a book that would open my eyes to a whole new world so I took a deep breath and read only when my concentration was focused.  Once I got the rhythm of the English used, I could appreciate its beauty and how well it represents this other world in rural Africa.   The language suits the world we enter that challenged my ideas of tradition and culture and the concepts of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”. 

The town at the center of this novel takes on a life of its own and I would consider it a main character.  Many actions taken by other characters are done so because that’s how Ichulu does it.  Living a life at the mercy of all the various Gods was very interesting and not the easier and I enjoyed the education into how much of the world sees life.  The idea of community based around the traditions of this town was intriguing and the loyalty of its occupants was awe inspiring.  

This book was SO worth the effort.  I loved the story of Ijeoma as she is forced to leave all she knows for a world so far from home.  Her trials and tribulations as her culture clashes with a Christian church are heartbreaking to read.  Her friendship with Chinwe was heartwarming and her letters to her Gods were so sad.   I would have liked more of her story. 
 
This is an amazing debut and now that I’ve gotten used to the writing style I look forward to more from this talented new author. I would advise that you need to be quite awake to read as there are many characters and the names are quite a challenge, at least they were for this scatterbrained reader.  I’d have loved a glossary and/or family tree to remind me which God was which.  I might also suggest working on the pacing a bit – some descriptions, such as the introductory description of the church service, could, in my opinion, have been shorter without losing anything.   

If you enjoy a challenging read with a reward, this is the book for you! 
Thanks, Astra and NetGalley for the ARC.
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God of Mercy centers on a young Igbo girl named Ijeoma who stands in the crossfire of tradition and change. We witness her juggling her growing yearning to embrace her spiritual gift and destiny with her enduring desire to be loved by her emasculated, insecure father who shuns his mute daughter. There were many themes and topics that I was both excited to see unfold after reading the synopsis and surprised to encounter, especially the conflict between old and new religions. that made this book a compelling read.

But I'm disappointed to say that the character development, writing style, pace, and plot all fell a bit flat for me. I felt that the first few parts dragged a bit with insufficient development on Ijeoma's personality, motives, and inner thoughts that made her who she was. I thought that her being mute would serve as a heavy, poignant juxtaposition to the rich inner world that the author would create for the reader. But it's almost like she's an afterthought and the limelight was lit more on her disgruntled father, exiled cousin, and the deeply entrenched traditions that forced Ichulu's people to make reluctant decisions for the sake of maintaining their customs.

Then all of a sudden, everything just hit like a ton of bricks in the last few chapters, and the plot felt extremely rushed and unearned. I had so many questions about why characters (especially the newer ones introduced in later chapters) were the way they were, and some of their decisions seemed forced to make the plot work. It's like watching a movie and feeling like certain things just happened too easily, and you know why they made the story turn that way, but you're still irked that they weren't subtle enough to prevent you from noticing. Why was the pastor's wife nice? Why did Ikemba make the decisions he did in the way he did? How was Ijeoma able to "trick" people for nine long years that she was a certain type of person? There were way too many unanswered questions that took me out of the moment, and I couldn't enjoy and relish the ending that was undoubtedly meant to be a big payoff.

I'm sad that this didn't work out for me, but I hope that for many others, it will. Wishing this debut novel the best of success although we weren't the best fit.
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My reflection here if dog an advanced review copy, which I received in exchange for a review. A well written, but complex book dealing with difficult issues of emotional and cultural trauma. Ijoema is a mute Igbo girl born to a father who is deeply disappointed by her affliction, even more so when he discovers that she has a connection to the Gods and can perform miracles (or is it witchcraft?). This tale makes a decidedly dark turn for the heroine and spends most of the novel exploring the ways in which she is isolated, exploited, and brutalized. 
I was very interested in this book. Conceptually, it was right up my alley—and I can see it being a popular choice for book clubs and on many short lists for potential awards because it is an beautiful  achievement, especially for a debut novel. It is ultimately a story about love, more than anything else. But it is difficult to rate because this story is very much not for me. I recognize the artistry of Nwoka and the beauty of the novel, but I did not enjoy it. How does one rate a book like that? I liked it, but I found myself frequently stepping away from it (it was often hard to stay engaged), and would not read it again. But, as I said, I do not doubt that there is an audience out there that will absolutely love this book in all its complexities.
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One thing is certain that being different makes you stand out and when you stand out, you are threat, often to yourself and most of all to others.
God of Mercy, follows Ijeoma- a young girl from Ichulu, an Igbo village that despite the changing times is still set in their ancestral ways and they still worship and believe in the deities of water, sky and the land. From birth, Ijeoma is feared and seen as an outcast because she cannot talk, and when she starts to fly, her body slowly being lifted off the ground- then her people partly fear her and partly assume that she communicates with the gods. With changing times, colonization at it's peak she finds herself exiled into a Christian community and is labelled a witch and has to grapple with the beliefs of other people- just as she did as a child among her own people.
Reading God of Mercy was like finding a familiar face, friend and neighbor in the busy streets of a foreign country. The language and tradition, dialogue between the characters- was akin to watching afro-sinema ( if I may say so) and it was refreshing. However, there is a lot to unpack, to unravel in this story that transcends religion and culture but moves more to conflicts in beliefs, challenging beliefs and what it means when you are other than what the people around you know.
Thanks Netgalley and the Publisher for the eARC.
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