The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa

Bloomsbury. Apr. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781635577778. $28. F
DEBUT Andrew Aziza, a 15-year-old Nigerian math prodigy, prize-winning poet, altar boy who doubts God’s existence, and sexually naive virgin obsessed with blondes, narrates this irreverent coming-of-age story from Nigerian-born, UK-based debut author Buoro. Like any teen, Andy switches from exaggerated eye roll to thoughtful introspection on a dime. His jaunty banter with friends Slim, Morocca, and Fatima belies the insecurity of a boy whose father—and hence his origin—is unknown, an omission for which he resents his mother. Disillusionment runs deep in Nigeria’s youth, with poverty and unemployment making the dangerous crossing to Europe look enticing. So when British priest Father McMahan, who for 30 years has created a robust church presence in this majority Muslim region, invites his teenage niece Eileen to visit, is it any wonder that Andy tumbles for this blonde goddess who represents all that he aspires to? Eileen’s reception is well underway when word arrives that a misunderstanding in the Muslim community has spawned unrest in town. Violence escalates, the church burns, a mob attacks parishioners, and Andy’s youthful dreaminess hits a wall of stark reality.
VERDICT Buoro, a Booker Foundation Scholarship recipient, deftly blends low-brow humor with sophisticated religious and literary references, elevating this highly anticipated novel to a poignant lament for a country and its children.
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