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Book Reviews
Prayer for the Living
By: Ben Okri (Author) - Akashic Books, $24.95

Description: Playful, frightening, shocking these stories from a writer at the height of his power will make you think, or make you laugh. Sometimes they will make you want to look away, but they will always hold your gaze.

These are stories set in London, in Byzantium, in the ghetto, in the Andes, and in a printers shop in Lagos. Characters include a murderer, a writer, a detective, a woman in a dream, a man in a mirror, a little girl, a prison door, and the author himself.

Each one of these twenty-four stories will make you wonder if what you see in the world can really be all there is.

Verdict: Here in Prayer for the Living, renowned Nigerian author Ben Okri brings forth an examination of is what we take for granted really all there is out there; or can the relative boredom of our daily lives be changed if we only knew of the existence of some form of alternate reality?

This career-spanning story collection from the Booker Prize-winning writer is easily structured as a grouping of short fiction and contains 25 separate works, each one contemplating a diverse set of themes.

Such themes include the brutality of war and civil unrest, the longing to be somewhere else in the world, the power of the written word, the metaphysics of detective work, the travails of seeking a better life, and even the hidden horrors residing in a childs doll house and an evil mirror toboot!

At times a wee bit too brief - like, you are knee deep into his prose, loving every corner turn, every rut in the literary journey, but then he seemingly dead ends and just puts a cap on proceedings - but at others so engrossing, so alive that once read you do not move forward you simply re-read that last vignette, Prayer for the Living is a book that may well bring to light the harshness of the subject matter with both hands open, but always imbues it with just the right amount of bluntness and dreamlike state to ensure it remains engaging and thought-provoking.

About the Author: Ben Okri was born in Minna, Nigeria. His childhood was divided between Nigeria, where he saw firsthand the consequences of war, and London.

He won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road, and his novel Astonishing the Gods was selected as one of the BBCs 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He also writes plays and screenplays. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a vice president of English PEN, and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes and honorary doctorates.

His latest novel, The Freedom Artist, was published by Akashic Books.

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