In God of Mercy, Okezie Nwọka Creates a “Folklore of the Uncolonized”

The Nigerian writer’s debut novel, of Igbo fantasy, has been praised as a cross between Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf.
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Okezie Nwọka’s God of Mercy

Okezie Nwọka’s God of Mercy. Credit: Astra House.

Okezie Nwọka’s debut God of Mercy is a novel of magical realism and fantasy. It is about a young non-verbal girl named Ijeoma who, because of her ability to fly, is called a witch and cast away from her family and community. The 304-page book has been described as a mix of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

God of Mercy was published by Astra House on November 2, 2021. Here is the synopsis:

In the Igbo village of Ichulu, the people’s worship of their gods is absolute, and their adherence to tradition has allowed them to evade colonization. But the village is reckoning with changes, including a war between gods signaled by Ijeoma, a girl who can fly.

As tensions grow between Ichulu and its neighboring colonized villages, Ijeoma is forced into exile. Reckoning with her powers and suffering through isolation, she comes to understand the truth of merciful love.

A sprawling cast of characters presented in lyrical prose, God of Mercy reimagines the nature of tradition and cultural heritage. Establishing a folklore of the uncolonized, it is a novel built in diaspora, wrestling with gods, confronting demons, and contending with the notion of discovering one’s true purpose.

Okezie Nwoka. Source: Express Igbo.
Okezie Nwoka. Source: Express Igbo.

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Okezie Nwọka is a graduate of Brown University and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as a Dean Graduate Research Fellow. They sit on the executive board of Express Igbo, a nonprofit promoting Igbo language. They are presently teaching and living in their hometown.

Nwọka revealed in an interview with Poets & Writers that it took them eight years to write God of Mercy. “I started writing it in college and worked on it intensely in graduate school,” they said. “And then when I started working after graduate school, I quit my full-time job to complete the novel.” They provided Largehearted Boy with a playlist of nine songs that soundtracked their journey of writing the novel.

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Kirkus Reviews reviewed God of Mercy as “a well-turned dramatization of spiritual and social culture clashes.”

Uzoma Ihejirika
Uzoma Ihejirika is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a staff writer at Folio Nigeria. He is an editor for the AfroAnthology Series and a copy editor for Minority Africa. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming on Lolwe, Music in Africa, and Bakwa Magazine, and can also be found on Medium.

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