In Okoye’s debut novel, a successful but unfulfilled lawyer turns to Christianity to find meaning.
This modern-day parable, set in London, follows a familiar narrative arc. John Williams is a successful solicitor at the prestigious law firm Malone and Malone, where he’s on track to make partner for his work defending corporate interests. But as his career has flourished, his personal life has floundered; his marriage of 20 years is dead, and he has a poor relationship with his children. As a result, he constantly battles a feeling of emptiness, which he suppresses with alcohol, infidelity, and fancy cars. His personal and professional interests come into conflict when he’s assigned a case representing a high-profile oil magnate who perpetrated a hit-and-run; it turns out that the victim, a 20-something man named Toby, has a mysterious connection to John. As John negotiates between his obligations to his firm and his personal sense of responsibility to Toby, his home life shows signs of further degradation. Then John’s friend Ike steps in to introduce him to Christianity. After Ike brings him to a few church services, John is so moved by a sermon that he instantly, devoutly adopts religion. Still, it may be too late: his wife, Amy, is preparing to leave him, and the distance between him and his children seems too large to bridge. Okoye sets this up as the novel’s central problem: will John’s newfound faith survive the collapse of life as he knows it? However, the author struggles to maintain this tension evenly throughout the novel. The story states its conflicts succinctly rather than exploring them in depth, and at no point do readers question that John will ultimately pull through. As such, the minor characters often provide more compelling drama; Amy is the strongest, and her ambivalence about continuing her marriage provides the most authentic emotions in the book. One wishes that her internal struggle had received as much attention as John’s does or that his struggle was as compelling as hers.
A slow-moving story about how religion can rapidly and completely transform a person’s life.