A Year in Reading: Dara Horn


You know how you usually recommend a good book and people say, “Oh, I’ve heard of that”? Well, every time I mention this one, no one has heard of it. But it’s so much fun that I can’t help recommending it, even though the lack of a Greek chorus of praise will make you not buy it. Just buy it anyway. It’s called I Do Not Come to You by Chance, by the Nigerian writer Adaobi Nwaubani, and it’s a novel about the 419 email scam. (That’s the one where a deposed Nigerian prince doesn’t write to you by chance, but because he knows you are a person of integrity who can help him to access his $43 million fortune and receive a 20% commission for the service, if you would only help him with the fees first by providing your bank details…) There is apparently an entire sector of the Nigerian economy supported by this scam, and this satirical novel is a wild, hilarious ride through that world.

I also finally read Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. I do realize that the rest of the world read this book ten years ago. But I didn’t have children ten years ago, and now I have four of them, so I finally picked it up. It’s a stunner. The plot (school shooting) and the moral questions (was Kevin just a psychopath, or was he influenced by his reluctant mother?) have been discussed to death. But what I loved about it were the characterizations of Kevin and Eva. Every word Kevin speaks feels completely dead-on, and I felt like I knew Eva — Kevin’s mother and the book’s narrator — intimately. And I hated her. Not because of her role in Kevin’s life (as a parent, I didn’t buy the idea that she had anything to do with who Kevin became), but purely because I hated her personality. In fact, I hated every single character in this book, and that’s what made me completely unable to stop reading it. I think there’s a mythology out there that readers want “likeable” characters. I for one don’t want likeable characters; I want interesting characters. Lionel Shriver nailed it. And now I’m working my way through the rest of her books.

More from A Year in Reading 2013

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

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