What The Word On The Street is Reading

This week, our Volunteer Coordinator Laura read 419 by Will Ferguson. The book was published last year by Viking Canada, and won the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize.


ImageAbout the Book:

A car tumbles down a snowy ravine. Accident or suicide? On the other side of the world, a young woman walks out of a sandstorm in sub-Saharan Africa. In the labyrinth of the Niger Delta, a young boy learns to survive by navigating through the gas flares and oil spills of a ruined landscape. In the seething heat of Lagos City, a criminal cartel scours the internet looking for victims.

Lives intersect, worlds collide, a family falls apart. And it all begins with a single email: “Dear Sir, I am the son of an exiled Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help …”

419 takes readers behind the scene of the world’s most insidious internet scam. When Laura’s father gets caught up in one such swindle and pays with his life, she is forced to leave the comfort of North America to make a journey deep into the dangerous back streets and alleyways of the Lagos underworld to confront her father’s killer. What she finds there will change her life forever …


Q & A with Laura

Q   What drew you to this book?

We’ve all received an email from a “Nigerian prince” in need of our help, this scam is known as  419. I thought it would be interesting to see what happens when the con actually plays out. I’m also always intrigued by stories that have international plotlines


Q: Did you enjoy reading it?

I couldn’t put this book down. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading and I was surprised by how suspenseful I found it. There are four storylines: three in Nigeria, and one in Canada. What I liked most about the book were the small moments when the storylines converged.  I enjoy trying to figure out how each of the storylines would come together and they did so slowly and subtly. Most of the book takes place in Nigeria, and it’s interesting to see Africa through four very different character’s eyes. Nigeria is a complex and dangerous country and each of characters come from very diverse backgrounds (one is Canadian) and as a result have very different perspectives on the country and its cultures. As I was reading, I was very aware of the temperature and the stark contrast between frigidly cold Western Canada and the sweltering heat of West Africa. This helped to establish the characters’ frame of mind in a situation as well as the immense cultural differences between the two countries.  It was interesting to consider the questions that arose as I read on and as I got to know both the victims and the scammers. I realized that sometimes it’s hard to know which is which.


Q: Would you recommend it?

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has ever actually considered responding to an email from a ‘prince’ who promises a nice payout for just a little bit of help. I would also recommend it to anyone with an interest in African culture as it is today. Overall it’s a great read for anyone who likes a little bit of mystery and suspense


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