Impostor Alert by Uduak Akpabio Umoren
Published by: Narrative Landscape Press
Release Date: 2018
Genre: Crime Fiction
Source: Author (Review Copy)
Two women meet on a bus heading for Lagos – one to continue her poor-paying job as a prostitute, and the other to visit a long-distance boyfriend. Both women discover that they share an uncanny resemblance and become fast friends. But before the end of that day, there will be a fatal crash. One woman will die and the other – following a case of mistaken identity – will impersonate her.
Gently navigating the chasm between the lives of the oblivious rich and desperate poor, Impostor Alert! is a finely wrought tale about grief, forgiveness and redemption.
Impostor Alert was a nice surprise. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. Especially after reading a blurb so blase. It tells you the plot, yeah but there wasn’t any buildup to let you know what to anticipate. Is the writing good? Tedious? What kind of emotions are you trying to get out of readers? The blurb wasn’t doing this book any justice at all.
The story her is about Inyene, a struggling “Lagos Girl” who meet Etima, a girl she shares a slight resemblance with. On her way to Lagos in shame after her plot to hook a husband fails, the last thing Inyene needs is a car accident. Neither does Etima who is a young university graduate on her way to meet her potential hubby for the first time.
Two girls who look slightly alike end up in a ghastly car accident together. One survives, obviously the desperate one and in a bid to survive, she decides to take advantage of the perks that come with the life of a dead girl. More than anything else, this is an instinctive reaction to survive.
Now, this plot device has been used a lot in various forms of entertainment. Comic books e.g. Bizarro Superman, Movies, TV e.g the first few episodes of Orphan Black and so on. The idea of someone coming to take over your life is not a new one and it was interesting to see this play out in an African setting. I’ve always theorised that the lack of strong community/family ties is what makes it so easy for these identity thefts to take place.
What made Impostor Alert fascinating were the nuances of family life that Inyene couldn’t seem to breach. The Akwa Ibom setting, the way things play out when there are issues in the community, details in the way the family relates are what makes this book charming.
As the deception was playing out, I was basically screaming at this chick like, “Girl, you can’t get away with this shit. It’s just impossible.” She tried it though, I’ll give it to her. A for effort.
This book would have earned the thriller classification if the teachable moment had been skipped. I wish the author hadn’t gone for the African magic vibe of “There’s a lesson to be learnt all the time” It would have been nice if Imposter Alert had stuck to a genre. Not trying to place it in a box, but let a thriller be a thriller. After page 200, the book takes a turn that I consider to be unnecessary and didn’t do the story any justice.
However, it was fun to walk in the shoes and mind of Inyene. Even as you know she definitely deluded, you’re kinda rooting for her. As she fantasizes about taking Etima’s life, all she has to do is convince her loved ones. Of course, her parents won’t notice that their University graduate daughter now has a secondary school level exposure.
This brings me to the way class plays out in this book. Inyene, the SSCE holder from a village in Akwa Ibom whose secondary education was probably not up to par trying to pull off an upper-middle-class exposure. I wish this had not been the major factor in outing my girl, but I get it.
Also, props to the author for bringing the south-south to life so effortlessly in Impostor Alert. I served over there during my NYSC and this had me feeling a bit nostalgic.
One gripe I have against this book was handling of the woman as super fragile. By woman, I’m referring to Etima’s mum. I found this constant worry of what she can or cannot handle incredibly insulting. Maybe because I know people actually do this. Her child was in an accident and you’re like “Mum can’t handle it, so let’s just lie to her”. If you don’t get the fuck outta here. This sentiment was emphasised so much that I literally felt compelled to write WTF is this bullshit?! in my book.
That idea that women are so hysterical and lacking in composure, they can’t handle anything is so played out and quite irritating. And guess what, she wasn’t hysterical in the end and I wonder if this was intentional on the part of the author or she didn’t even realise her own prejudice playing out.
Nice book. Fast paced. Sucks you in fast. Wish the end didn’t drag on for so long and it had stuck to being a thriller with an Akwa Ibom vibe.
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P.s. Make sure you can pick up in Lagos.