An Orchestra of Minorities
A heart-breaking and mythic story about a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything to win the woman he loves, by Man Booker Finalist and author of The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma.A contemporary twist on the Odyssey, An Orchestra of Minorities is narrated by the chi, or spirit of a young poultry farmer named Chinonso. His life is set off course when he sees a woman who is about to jump off a bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, he hurls two of his prized chickens off the bridge. The woman, Ndali, is stopped in her tracks.Chinonso and Ndali fall in love but she is from an educated and wealthy family. When her family objects to the union on the grounds that he is not her social equal, he sells most of his possessions to attend college in Cyprus. But when he arrives in Cyprus, he discovers that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements for him. Penniless, homeless, we watch as he gets further and further away from his dream and from home. An Orchestra of Minorities is a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.

An Orchestra of Minorities Details

TitleAn Orchestra of Minorities
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 8th, 2019
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316412391
Rating
GenreFiction, Cultural, Africa, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Western Africa, Nigeria

An Orchestra of Minorities Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    Agbatta-Alumalu, the fathers of old say that without light, a person cannot sprout shadows. My host fell in love with this woman. She came as a strange, sudden light that caused shadows to spring from everything else. Wow. How do I even begin to review this book? All words seem inadequate. It is exceptional. It is beautiful. And it is unlike anything I've ever read before.It's challenging, too. I don't want to sell it to readers who won't like it. It's a clever and dense literary work, heavily Agbatta-Alumalu, the fathers of old say that without light, a person cannot sprout shadows. My host fell in love with this woman. She came as a strange, sudden light that caused shadows to spring from everything else. Wow. How do I even begin to review this book? All words seem inadequate. It is exceptional. It is beautiful. And it is unlike anything I've ever read before.It's challenging, too. I don't want to sell it to readers who won't like it. It's a clever and dense literary work, heavily influenced by Nigerian cosmology. It takes some time to settle into the unusual narration - the story is narrated by Chinonso's chi (a kind of guardian spirit) - but once I did, I could not put it down. She poked her hand into the dark and secret places of his life and touched everything in it. And in time, she became the thing his soul had been yearning after for years with tears in its eyes. The strength of this novel, I feel, is that it is fundamentally an old and universal tale. A tale of a poor man who falls for a woman above his station and will do anything within his power to please her family and earn the right to be with her. These familiar concepts are given a distinctly Nigerian spin, making it stand out from the stories that have come before it.As I said, it can be a tough read. The characters often switch between Nigerian Pidgin, untranslated Igbo, and the "language of the White man", but it is impressive how easily I understood everything without knowing a word of Igbo. I guess a huge part of it is the way that the author - through the chi - constructs each scene. But it's tough for another reason, too. The chi's wisdom and wit add warmth to the story, but there is no disguising the fact that this is a dark book, full of tragedy and misfortune, including one instance of on-page rape. There is one particularly tragic event - you will know the one I mean - and it is made all the more disturbing because it is so obvious. The reader sees it coming long before Nonso does, and the way Obioma leads us up to the inevitable made me deeply anxious and upset. It is painful to witness. Guardian spirits of mankind, have we thought about the powers that passion creates in a human being? We are told in the beginning that Nonso's chi has come to plead for his host before the supreme Igbo god, Chukwu. We know instantly that this kind, laid-back farmer's life is about to unravel. And yet this, somehow, makes it all the more tense when we are led on the journey to find out what happened to him.Gorgeous descriptions, Nigerian mythology, a love story that rips your heart out, and a complex and fascinating protagonist who we want so very very much to succeed-- all these things await the reader who picks up this book. If any book deserves to become a "classic", then An Orchestra of Minorities certainly does.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Manny
    January 1, 1970
    If the prey do not produce their version of the tale, the predators will always be the heroes in the story of the hunt, says the quotation which opens this unusual and beautiful novel; and indeed, we come to understand that the "minorities" in its title are the prey, so often voiceless, who are now precariously recovering their ability to bear witness. I like this attitude. I like to hear about people who have been trampled on by history but fought back. Recently, I have read Sofi Oksanen's When If the prey do not produce their version of the tale, the predators will always be the heroes in the story of the hunt, says the quotation which opens this unusual and beautiful novel; and indeed, we come to understand that the "minorities" in its title are the prey, so often voiceless, who are now precariously recovering their ability to bear witness. I like this attitude. I like to hear about people who have been trampled on by history but fought back. Recently, I have read Sofi Oksanen's When the Doves Disappeared, which tells us about the Estonians, and I have read Romain Gary's La danse de Gengis Cohn, which tells us about the Polish Jews. I have read Jonathan Rée's I See a Voice, which tells us about the worldwide Deaf community. Now I have read Chigozie Obioma's account of the Nigerians. These people's stories have many elements in common, and one of the most obvious is that their languages have been systematically suppressed. The Soviets made Russian the language of administration and business when they were occupying Estonia. Teachers punished Deaf children who tried to use sign language. I was not surprised to read that the British punished Nigerians who used "African languages".When one people decides to eradicate another, they sometimes just kill them, as the Germans did with the Polish Jews and the Spaniards did with the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. (You can find a great deal about this in Jens Bjørneboe's Bestialitetens historie). But most often they can't quite bring themselves to go this far, and they find they can achieve their ends almost as well by eradicating the subject people's language and culture; they are pleased to discover that some of their subjects cooperate. The thing that makes When the Doves Disappeared so horrifying is the way Edgar willingly turns himself into an efficient tool, first of the Nazis and then of the Bolsheviks. And similarly, what makes An Orchestra of Minorities so horrifying is that the truly cruel and despicable things that happen are not done by White people. They are done by Black people who have internalised the values and language of the White people and come to despise their own culture's values and language. The book fights back by setting its action in the world of traditional Igbo culture, a world most of its readers will know nothing about. I certainly didn't. Characters often speak for a sentence or two in Igbo or pidgin, to remind the reader that if you're an Igbo whose family hasn't managed to find the money to send you to university, this is what it's like: you hear words, perhaps important words, in the White man's language, and you don't understand them. Most memorably, the narrator is the central character's chi. What is a chi? We don't have this concept in our spiritual universe. It is not a Christian soul or guardian angel, and it is not a Hindu atman. It is a little bit like all of these, but only a little bit. Really it is something different, and even after reading the book I have only a very partial understanding of what a chi is. It is another person, who is both part of you and not part of you, who has been alive before you were born as part of other people, and will be alive after you are dead. So how can any of this make a book which a Westerner can find, not just worthwhile, but compelling? (I stayed up until 1 am last night finishing it). Somehow, the author has done a strange and remarkable thing. He has learned to grasp our language and culture and even love it, but without letting go of his own. He has taken this alien universe with its incomprehensible language and he has transposed it into gorgeous and poetic English. He has pushed open a door between our two world, just a crack but that is already a huge achievement, and we look through that crack and are amazed. We think: this is something completely new. I have never seen anything like it. Thank you, Chigozie Obioma. If only there were more people like you.
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  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    Based upon Nigerian Igbo beliefs, each being has a "chi", a guardian spirit. A chi has gone through many cycles of reincarnation and is familiar with earthy challenges. In the present cycle of life, Chinonso Solomon Olisa is a host. His chi, the book's commentator, tries to intercede, to testify to Chukwu (Creator of All), that Nonso has committed a grave crime, but unknowingly.Nonso was a man of silence. He felt total emptiness and perpetual loneliness. His father died leaving him in charge of Based upon Nigerian Igbo beliefs, each being has a "chi", a guardian spirit. A chi has gone through many cycles of reincarnation and is familiar with earthy challenges. In the present cycle of life, Chinonso Solomon Olisa is a host. His chi, the book's commentator, tries to intercede, to testify to Chukwu (Creator of All), that Nonso has committed a grave crime, but unknowingly.Nonso was a man of silence. He felt total emptiness and perpetual loneliness. His father died leaving him in charge of their poultry farm. His pet gosling died through an act of revenge performed by catapulting a stone. Raising fowl suited Nonso. These domestic creatures were weak animals and he enjoyed ministering to them. On the way home from market, with a new flock (his comrades) in his truck, he witnessed a young woman scaling a bridge over the Amatu River, planning her demise. Nonso instantly reacted by throwing two of his chickens from the bridge to show her what would happen if she jumped. He talked her down, after all, he understood despair. His chi suggested he proceed home. In retrospect, Nonso felt he hadn't done enough to help her. A chance meeting...a connection...lonely, uneducated farmer meets girl of his dreams...highly educated Ndali Obialor feels truly cherished...it's love! Ndali and her family live in a mansion with marble floors. Ndali, however, has a mind of her own. Chi is worried that the budding love between Nonso and Ndali will make Nonso disregard his counsel. In order to be worthy of Ndali, but against her wishes and protests, Nonso leaves his poultry farm in Nigeria and travels to north Cyprus seeking higher education and lifestyle change in the name of love.Nonso's chi's testimony to Chukwu includes a recounting of Nonso's trials and tribulations in his quest for betterment. Chi explains that although, as a spirit being, he left his host's body in search of consultation to benefit his host, he could not interfere. "We should allow man to execute his will and be man"."An Orchestra of Minorities" by Chigozie Obioma left me speechless, breathless and filled with awe. The prose in this work of magical realism was superb. I slowly savored this remarkable, yet harsh and devastating tale. I highly recommend this book!Thank you Little, Brown and Company and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "An Orchestra of Minorities".
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  • Brenda - Traveling Sister
    January 1, 1970
    An Orchestra of Minorities is a very original story and very different from anything I have read. It’s a rich, complex tale about love, sacrifice and misfortune. The story is narrated by our main character Chinonso’s Chi, a guardian spirit. The Chi guides him and us through the story. The Chi presence, warm kindness and concern give the story a heartwarming feel through the heartbreaking parts in the story.An Orchestra of Minorities is a complex and beautifully emotionally written story yet chal An Orchestra of Minorities is a very original story and very different from anything I have read. It’s a rich, complex tale about love, sacrifice and misfortune. The story is narrated by our main character Chinonso’s Chi, a guardian spirit. The Chi guides him and us through the story. The Chi presence, warm kindness and concern give the story a heartwarming feel through the heartbreaking parts in the story.An Orchestra of Minorities is a complex and beautifully emotionally written story yet challenging with the density to it. I thought the characters started off interesting and engaging and I connected with the characters and wanted to get to know them better. However, things start to get a bit heavy with Igho culture, folklore and language that weighed down the story for me. I became distracted and at times sidetracked me from continuing to engage with the characters. This definitely could be the most interesting part of the story for readers however for this reader it was a bit too ambitious for me.I read this one on my own which isn’t something I do very often but with timing I ended up reading it on my own. I wish I had read it with my sisters as it is one that would work really well as a group read to discuss it. Probably even better with an in-person group. I highly recommend for group reads.Thank you to Hachette Canada, Little Brown and Chigozie Obioma for my ARC to read and review.
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  • Bam
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully written story, a love story, an odyssey, and ultimately a tragedy. Set in Umuahi, Nigeria and Cyprus, it is the life story of Chinonso Solomon Olisa, a young poultry farmer who falls in love with a beautiful young woman far above him in class. In order to marry her, he sells everything he owns so that he might get a college education but things go horribly wrong for him, one after another.What makes this story so unusual is that it is narrated by Chinonso's 'chi' or guardia This is a beautifully written story, a love story, an odyssey, and ultimately a tragedy. Set in Umuahi, Nigeria and Cyprus, it is the life story of Chinonso Solomon Olisa, a young poultry farmer who falls in love with a beautiful young woman far above him in class. In order to marry her, he sells everything he owns so that he might get a college education but things go horribly wrong for him, one after another.What makes this story so unusual is that it is narrated by Chinonso's 'chi' or guardian spirit, who has gone before the ancient god of many names to explain Chinonso's actions so that he won't be judged too harshly. The title 'An Orchestra of Minorities' comes up many times in the story--the first and to me the most touching of these is when Chinonso explains to his love Ndali Obialor that the chickens sing a song of mourning for the one among their flock who has gone--in this case, taken by a hawk. His father always called that an orchestra of minorities. 'He was always saying the chickens know that is all they can do: crying and making the sound ukuuukuu! Ukuuukuu!' But this relates so well to Chinonso's own life, who often finds he has no power over circumstances as they unfold, as have so many others like him throughout history: 'All who have been chained and beaten, whose lands have been plundered, whose civilizations have been destroyed, who have been silenced, beaten, raped, plundered, shamed, and killed. With all these people, he'd come to share a common fate. They were the minorities of this world whose recourse was to join the universal orchestra in which all there is to do is cry and wail.'This is not an easy read. There is plenty of foreshadowing by the chi to let the reader know this won't have a happy ending. And the characters are only seen through the spirit's observations so there are naturally limitations to the full development of characterizations. I tend to give high marks for inventive writing. The book that this reminds me most of is Lincoln in the Bardo, another highly inventive novel, so if you loved that book as I did, I can recommend this book to you. Of course comparison to the story of The Odyssey comes up often in this story but in that ancient tale, his true love waits for her husband's return. I've read several interviews with Chigozie Obioma about his new book and saw this quote he posted on Instagram that you might find interesting: "The inspiration for An Orchestra of Minorities came when I went to (the) Turkish Republic of Cyprus in 2007 for college. At the time, I was one of very few African (or black) people on the island. I was the only one who wasn't Turkish in my class. Jay, a young Nigerian man who had recently been deported from Germany, came a year later and his travails and eventual death inspired the character of Chinonso." I received an arc from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
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  • Perry
    January 1, 1970
    Symphony of the thousand natural shocks [t]hat flesh is heir to. "Hamlet"* This is a superbly written, expertly structured, often captivating, One Hundred Eighty Proof Tragedy, Through and Through, for which it may suffer in GR ratings. Which is too bad, because it is an intelligent and particularly unique, heart-bruising novel which will make each longlist and likely be shortlisted later this year.Describing the story in much detail may well trash the tragedian effects, but I think it's okay to Symphony of the thousand natural shocks [t]hat flesh is heir to. "Hamlet"* This is a superbly written, expertly structured, often captivating, One Hundred Eighty Proof Tragedy, Through and Through, for which it may suffer in GR ratings. Which is too bad, because it is an intelligent and particularly unique, heart-bruising novel which will make each longlist and likely be shortlisted later this year.Describing the story in much detail may well trash the tragedian effects, but I think it's okay to--as I am oft apt to do as a crutch for description--lift lyrics from songs (here, both from the 70s), "the things we do for love" and Won't you look down upon me, JesusYou've got to help me make a standYou've just got to see me through another dayMy body's aching and my time is at handI won't make it any other way** Also, from the Book of Common Prayer, The iron entered into his soul. Finally, see The Book of Job.__________________________[*contemplating felo-de-se in preference to hell on earth][**No, contrary to urban myth, this Sweet Baby James song, Fire and Rain, wasn't written about a jet crash].
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    I kept half-joking as I read this book that I was bracing myself for the surely terrible things that were to come. I read THE FISHERMEN, a beautiful gut-punch of a book, and while I didn't approach Obioma's second novel with trepidation I did approach with caution. Sure enough, this is another book where some pretty terrible things happen. (FYI avoid the marketing copy on this one, yes including the Goodreads summary, which on its own takes you through like 60% of the plot.)In style, at least, t I kept half-joking as I read this book that I was bracing myself for the surely terrible things that were to come. I read THE FISHERMEN, a beautiful gut-punch of a book, and while I didn't approach Obioma's second novel with trepidation I did approach with caution. Sure enough, this is another book where some pretty terrible things happen. (FYI avoid the marketing copy on this one, yes including the Goodreads summary, which on its own takes you through like 60% of the plot.)In style, at least, this book is very different from his last. Our narrator is a chi, which in Igbo beliefs is a kind of soul or guardian angel. The chi begins the book letting us know that his host has done something horrible and that he is appearing before the great God to speak for him. Each chapter begins with a sort of incantation, often a supplication complete with a parable. As a reader it took me a little while to get into this rhythm, I think I would have had an easier time on audio (which was how I read THE FISHERMEN). The chi sees everything our protagonist, Chinonso, sees but can also leave his body to see the happenings of the spirit world. It's a smart spin on the semi-omniscient narrator, the chi is separate enough from Chinonso that it cannot control him but enough of a part of him that it knows all his feelings.It's an ambitious novel and a powerful one, but ultimately it left me unsure of how to feel about the story. Over the course of its long tale we understand how Chinonso ends up where he does, and there are portions of it where the comparisons to THE ODYSSEY feel purposeful. But ultimately this seems to be the story of how a person becomes broken beyond repair, of how a certain kind of love and obsession can turn good intentions into horrible outcomes. And when it's over I just felt kind of empty.Obioma impressed me just as much here as he did with his first book. And I am definitely going to continue reading anything he writes. I'll just be sure to brace myself.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    An Orchestra of Minorities, Man Booker Shortlisted Chigozie Obioma's second novel, is a powerful cry for justice from main character Chinonso. From the first page right through to the last I was utterly riveted and read the entire book in a single intense sitting. Beautifully written and wholly absorbing, it is a successful contemporary twist on Homer's Odyssey and shows how masterful Obioma is when he can take familiar tropes and put a completely different spin on them; his own unique spin.This An Orchestra of Minorities, Man Booker Shortlisted Chigozie Obioma's second novel, is a powerful cry for justice from main character Chinonso. From the first page right through to the last I was utterly riveted and read the entire book in a single intense sitting. Beautifully written and wholly absorbing, it is a successful contemporary twist on Homer's Odyssey and shows how masterful Obioma is when he can take familiar tropes and put a completely different spin on them; his own unique spin.This is, at its heart, a love story, but it also addresses important issues such as racism and class divides. The Igbo cosmology and Greek tragedy infused throughout the story was fascinating, and Chinonso's struggle between fate and self-determination is both heroic and intensely emotional; I was entranced. This is a magnificent piece of writing that anyone and everyone can relate to as it explores universal struggles we all go through. Highly recommended.Many thanks to Little, Brown for an ARC.
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  • Victoria Iyene
    January 1, 1970
    This is probably the most powerful and inventive book I have read in my life. The only possible comparison to the breadth and power of this book is Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. The symphonic power, the radiance of the language, and the invention of an entire cosmos is simply, for lack of a better word, astounding.The novel is in its entirety a confession by a spirit--a personal god in the Igbo culture (I'm Nigerian, and from the East but not from the Igbo tribe). This god is embodied in This is probably the most powerful and inventive book I have read in my life. The only possible comparison to the breadth and power of this book is Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. The symphonic power, the radiance of the language, and the invention of an entire cosmos is simply, for lack of a better word, astounding.The novel is in its entirety a confession by a spirit--a personal god in the Igbo culture (I'm Nigerian, and from the East but not from the Igbo tribe). This god is embodied in every individual and helps direct the course of our lives. When Chinomso Olisa commits an act that may have led to a fatal outcome, his personal god, chi, ascends to the heavenlies to give an account of his life on earth to the supreme being who is known by a cast of names including Chukwu, Ijango-Ijango, amongst others. The life of Chinonso is dark, and he is a lonely man but one full of compassion. Consigned to managing a poultry farm, he falls in love with Ndali, a woman from a wealthy family. Class war erupts as is often the case in Nigeria, and the result is a turn towards personal sacrifice. Chinonso must go to Cyprus, an island far from Africa to get a fast education, a journey which will lead to a very serious consequence for him and Ndali.The description of the cosmic space, of the world of the ethereal, of the beliefs of the Igbo people actualized in real time is nothing short of astonishing. This is a highly intelligent book, a book of extreme powers and one that is so easily enjoyable. I loved his first book, but didn't think it was necessarily great. Yet, I did not expect that Obioma would surpass The Fishermen, but this is something beyond something. It definitely is the greatest African novel I know of. I have never read or heard anything like it. VERDICT: In a league of its own. This is an extraordinary work of fiction. Shakespearean in tone, mythic and Homeric in breadth, it is a mesmerizing and powerful tale of love, loss, and destiny.
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  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    Right from the start of An Orchestra of Minorities we know the main character Nonso, a humble poultry farmer, has done something very bad but we don’t yet know what it is. His ‘chi’, a sort of guardian spirit, is interceding with the Igbo deity on Nonso’s behalf, and this chi narrates the tale of Nonso’s downfall like a courtroom lawyer stating his case for the defence. What gradually unfolds is a love story and a tragedy shot through with Igbo cosmology and tradition.Nonso the chicken guy meets Right from the start of An Orchestra of Minorities we know the main character Nonso, a humble poultry farmer, has done something very bad but we don’t yet know what it is. His ‘chi’, a sort of guardian spirit, is interceding with the Igbo deity on Nonso’s behalf, and this chi narrates the tale of Nonso’s downfall like a courtroom lawyer stating his case for the defence. What gradually unfolds is a love story and a tragedy shot through with Igbo cosmology and tradition.Nonso the chicken guy meets the beautiful, educated, worldly Ndali but her wealthy parents disapprove. He decides the solution is to pursue higher education but this proves disastrous and things go from bad to worse for Nonso. Because it’s all being told retrospectively by Nonso’s chi, there’s plenty of ominous foreshadowing, and it’s ultimately quite a bleak tale. I couldn’t quite get into An Orchestra of Minorities, and I think the reason comes down to pacing and structural issues. The first half of the book is just so slow. From about the middle it picks up, but remains uneven to the end. Obioma builds tension only to insert humdrum details at the oddest moments; he also neglects certain characters and plot points. The book is about Nonso’s fall and I didn’t have a problem with Nonso being the main focus. But Ndali’s character was skimmed over to a ridiculous degree. When the story begins Ndali is (apparently) suicidal, but this is just the setup for a meet-cute and is never really mentioned again. It’s a glaring loose thread. Similarly, even before these two lovebirds get together, Nonso has a whole other (brief) relationship with a woman named Motu, which goes nowhere and doesn’t add much to the narrative. I expected to eventually circle back to these matters, but no.There’s also some pretty heavy-handed imagery, especially involving a pet gosling that Nonso had as a child. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that something bad happened to the gosling. Nonso is constantly thinking about his gosling, remembering his gosling, dreaming about his gosling… do you think the gosling represents Ndali? These are obviously nitpicks but they stand out because the book overall just wasn’t engaging enough, it was slow and the characters, especially the female characters, were thinly drawn. As it’s being heavily promoted my expectations were high, but it fell flat for me.
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  • Ken
    January 1, 1970
    UPDATE AFTER READING THE ACTUAL ARC:After trying for so long, I finally got my hands on the novel!! As anyone who has seen my posts know, I loved THE FISHERMEN and believe Obioma is probably one of the top 5 greatest writers writing right now. He is doing what no one else is doing, and were this writer European or American, he would be better celebrated. I'm trying to develop a career around studying the works of this great writer.An Orchestra of Minorities is a cosmic novel, magic realist, but UPDATE AFTER READING THE ACTUAL ARC:After trying for so long, I finally got my hands on the novel!! As anyone who has seen my posts know, I loved THE FISHERMEN and believe Obioma is probably one of the top 5 greatest writers writing right now. He is doing what no one else is doing, and were this writer European or American, he would be better celebrated. I'm trying to develop a career around studying the works of this great writer.An Orchestra of Minorities is a cosmic novel, magic realist, but also realist. If you thought the language in Obioma's first novel sings, wait until you read this book. There are paragraphs, lines that will blow your mind. Because the book is not really yet in circulation, I will update this post with lengthier review sometime next year. Look for it people, look for this amazing intercontinental love story told in a way that has never been seen before in fiction. Look for it!Now, here is the short review:The story is set in Umuahia, a city in the East of Nigeria that was pivotal in that nation's civil war (chronicled in books such a Half of a Yellow Sun). Chinonso, a poultry farmer, who had become in love with birds after owning a gosling, the small bird on the jacket, meets Ndali, a young medical student about to jump over a bridge. Having lost his own family and recovering from grief, he saves Ndali. We follow his evolution as he goes from a lonely man to being in love with her. There comes the heart of the story. His affection for Ndali will drive a wedge between her and her family and force him to make daring sacrifices that will take him to the island of Cyprus. But will he, after those years, be able to reconnect with Ndali? That question, existentialist as it is, sits at the heart of An Orchestra of Minorities. The chi, the narrator of the story, is a god-in-every-man figure. In the Igbo worldview, every human being has a chi who lives in them and is their mediator in the realm of the metaphysical. What is more fascinating is that this reincarnating spirit has lived in many people before, and is therefore able to give life lessons every inch of the way while telling us the story of Chinonso's doomed romance with Ndali. It is an extraordinary narrative device, something I have never seen before but which is comparable to George Saunder's device in Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the Man Booker Prize. This book is in some ways darker than Obioma's The Fishermen, which was a finalist for the Man Booker prize. But it is more ambitious, and yet more subtle. It will take time for me to figure out which of these two books I love better. But I learned much more from An Orchestra of Minorities, and found it much more thought-provoking. On the title, I found the title one of the richest elements in the story. It first comes from Ndali's speech describing what happens to the chickens in the aftermath of a hawk attack. It is one of the most heart-rending scenes you will ever read in modern literature. But my favorite moment in this is book is the part with a strong racial component when Chinonso, lost in Cyprus, is mobbed by a group of young islanders. The chi narrates:"They did not know that he was a man of great poverty, a man whose poverty extended beyond the diameter of time. In the past, what he owned he lost. In the present, he owned nothing. And in the in the prospected future, nothing."
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  • Tamara Agha-Jaffar
    January 1, 1970
    An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma is a gripping love story with tragic consequences. Chinonso Solomon Olisa is a humble chicken farmer with a gentle spirit and compassionate heart. He leads a quiet, uneventful life, nurturing his chickens and goslings with tenderness and empathy. Through a chance encounter, he meets Ndali, the daughter of an affluent chief. They fall passionately in love. Their relationship is met with vehement opposition from her family. Humiliated by their rejectio An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma is a gripping love story with tragic consequences. Chinonso Solomon Olisa is a humble chicken farmer with a gentle spirit and compassionate heart. He leads a quiet, uneventful life, nurturing his chickens and goslings with tenderness and empathy. Through a chance encounter, he meets Ndali, the daughter of an affluent chief. They fall passionately in love. Their relationship is met with vehement opposition from her family. Humiliated by their rejection, Chinonso decides to seek a university degree in Cyprus to earn her family’s approval. Slowly but surely, his life begins to unravel. His decision, taken with the best of intentions, relentlessly catapults him from one tragic event to another until the novel’s inexorably catastrophic conclusion. Through no fault of his own, Chinonso suffers degradation, humiliation, imprisonment, and rape until his release from a Cyprus jail. He goes back to Nigeria. But he is now a broken man, one who is beyond repair. His attempts to reclaim his property and the love of his life are repeatedly dashed. He cannot relinquish the past or reconcile himself with his losses. With his frustration and anger building, he sets out to avenge himself, perpetrating a crime which has tragic consequences.The narrative unfolds in the voice of Chinonso’s chi—his guardian spirit. The tone of impending disaster is foreshadowed at the outset and recurs throughout the novel. It opens with the chi pleading for forgiveness for his host’s actions before a court of the Igbo god, one referred to in many different names. Each chapter begins with the chi’s supplication to the god, pleading his host’s case. Threaded throughout the narrative are references to the beliefs and traditions of the complex system of Igbo cosmology. The chi shares the wisdom he has acquired from inhabiting the bodies of previous hosts going back many generations. He bemoans the erosion of the traditional beliefs of the fathers and the willingness of Nigerians to abandon those beliefs by adopting the beliefs of the White man. Although he tries to intervene in the form of Chinonso’s conscience and occasionally leaves his host’s body for the ethereal world of spirits to seek help for his host’s predicament, his ability to effect change as a guardian spirit is limited. He watches helplessly as Chinonso plummets into a vortex not of his making. On the one hand, this is a riveting story of a love gone terribly wrong. On the other hand, the novel can also be read as a metaphor for a people who, through no fault of their own, experience betrayal, injustice, humiliation, rape, beatings, silencing, loss of dignity, and loss of personal property. No matter which way they turn, circumstances conspire against them. They struggle to retain their original identity, but their suffering has been too great and transformative. They become obsessive, embittered humans with a thirst for vengeance, capable of perpetrating acts of violence on blameless victims.Obioma has written a complex, compelling novel, epic in scope, and threaded with elements of magical realism. He has taken a traditional love story of a poor boy and rich girl; situated it in a Nigerian village; immersed the reader in Igbo culture and cosmology alongside western culture; mesmerized with his lyrical prose; skillfully built up the tension; and grabbed us by the hand and heart to lead us to the inevitable, catastrophic conclusion. The title of the book refers to the chickens’ song of mourning when one of their flock is forcibly taken. Just like the chickens wailing in sorrow, just like Chinonso’s chi, we watch helplessly on the side lines and lend our voices to the orchestra of minorities mourning their loss.A thought-provoking, challenging read. Highly recommended.
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  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    This is a grim, sad story, made bearable by Obioma’s rather stately writing and his use of the protagonist’s chi, a spirit character in Igbo cosmology, to relate the story of our good-hearted chicken farmer. The book could have been tighter, and the last fourth felt draggy and repetitive, but I was so invested in the story and characters by then that there was no way I was quitting. The audio narration is excellent and enhances the feeling that you’re listening to an oral tale.
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  • Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    thoughts coming shortly
  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    “Oh God! Nonso, they are! It is like a coordinated song, the kind they sing during burial ceremonies. Like a choir. And what they are singing is a song of sorrow. Just listen, Nonso.” She stood silent for a moment, then she stepped back a bit and snapped her fingers. “It is true what your father said. It is an orchestra of minorities.” An Orchestra of Minorities is a remarkable book: in the tradition of Things Fall Apart, it tells a Nigerian's story in a blend of Igbo and Western European techn “Oh God! Nonso, they are! It is like a coordinated song, the kind they sing during burial ceremonies. Like a choir. And what they are singing is a song of sorrow. Just listen, Nonso.” She stood silent for a moment, then she stepped back a bit and snapped her fingers. “It is true what your father said. It is an orchestra of minorities.” An Orchestra of Minorities is a remarkable book: in the tradition of Things Fall Apart, it tells a Nigerian's story in a blend of Igbo and Western European techniques/language/mythologies, and by setting the characters in this hybrid-world of conflicting influences, it illustrates the modern day struggle of post-colonial Nigeria. This is a challenging read, long and ponderous, but I wouldn't be surprised to see author Chigozie Obioma among the Man Booker nominees, once again, with this title. He hadn't considered that he had been broken by the world. The birds were the hearth on which his heart had been burned, and – at the same time – they were the ashes that gathered after the wood was burnt. He loved them, even if they were varied while he was one and simple. Yet, like everyone who loves, he wished that it be requited. And because he could not tell even if his singular gosling once loved him or not, in time his love became a deformed thing – a thing neither he nor I, his chi, could understand. As the book opens, a “chi” – a kind of guardian spirit assigned to a mortal in Igbo belief – has rushed to the spirit world to plead the case of his “host” before the creator god, Chukwu: this host has apparently committed a crime that might prevent him from being reborn again, and the chi is asking for Chukwu's intercession with Ala, the goddess who controls reincarnation. In order for Chukwu to fully understand the host's recent actions, his chi relates all of the major events of the man's life, and in this way, the narrative reads like transcribed oral storytelling. This conceit makes for an interesting semi-omniscient narrator: the chi can report on all of his host's thoughts and actions – even explain the times that it intervened to influence the host for his own good – but being a nonhuman entity, it can't always understand human motivation. (Yet having been paired with many hosts over the centuries, the chi often relates this human's actions to those taken by others it has inhabited throughout Nigerian history.) The chi even leaves his host's body sometimes in order to see what's going on in the spirit world, and the overall effect is an engaging overview of both modern Igbo life and traditional cosmology. As for this host: Chinonso “Nonso” Solomon Olisa was a young and semi-educated rural poultry farmer (the opening quote is about the mourning song chickens engage in when a hawk makes off with a chick) when he met Ndali Umuahia: the university educated daughter of a rich and powerful urban chief. When the two fell in love and Ndali's family rejected Nonso as beneath their daughter, he was willing to give up everything he had to move to North Cyprus and get a university degree to prove himself worthy. (Apparently, Obioma attended university in North Cyprus and this section is based on his and other Nigerians' experiences there.) Things don't go according to plan, as things never seem to have worked out for the powerless Nonso, and pressures build up in him that lead to the actions that his chi eventually tries to justify. All who have been chained and beaten, whose lands have been plundered, whose civilizations have been destroyed, who have been silenced, beaten, raped, plundered, shamed, and killed. With all these people, he'd come to share a common fate. They were the minorities of this world whose recourse was to join the universal orchestra in which all there is to do is cry and wail. I tried to be careful with the plot synopsis there, but this book is about so much more than the plot. Obioma paints a detailed picture of the class structure of this Nigerian community – the haves and the have-nots and the pressures to acquire the things that the White Men have convinced the sons of the old fathers that they must have (pressures that have led to yahoo boys and their Nigerian Prince-type schemes; pressures that make a foreign education more desirable than a relatively prosperous traditional livelihood). The upper classes have set aside the local gods in order to follow “Jisos Kraist”, and when Nonso goes to Cyprus, he experiences racism for the first time (from locals asking to touch his hair to people yelling the Turkish for “slave” at him from passing cars.) And through it all, Obioma uses language to situate characters into their classes: Ndali prefers to speak her British-accented English, and while Nonso can converse in that tongue, when he has something important to say, he switches to Igbo. There are many instances of untranslated Igbo, and it can be frustrating the number of times Nonso can't come up with the words to reply in fraught situations:“You have,” she said. “I gbu o le onwe gi.”Surprised by her switch to Igbo, he did not speak.Obioma employs a sophisticated English vocabulary (“noctambulist”, “oneiric forms”, “colloids of wall paint”, “a caesura of despondency”) and some from a class lower than Nonso speak in challenging pidgin: Oh, boy, you no sabi wetin you dey talk...Nothing wey person eye no go see these days oh. Im see nyash wey tripam – na im be say im love me. It seems to be particularly revelatory that while in Cyprus, Nonso had to continually use the phrase “no Turkish” with the locals (and privately complain that they didn't understand his English): power is entangled with mutual understanding, and the mix of English and Igbo in Nonso's village keeps the classes separated; just one lingering effect of British colonisation. In addition to all these languages, the chi often quotes Igbo proverbs to Chukwu, while addressing the god by his many names: Ijango-Ijango, the ndiichie say that if a wall does not bear a hole in it, lizards cannot enter a house...Egbunu, the old fathers say that a mouse cannot run into an empty mousetrap in broad daylight unless it has been drawn to the trap by something it cannot refuse...Agbaradike, the great fathers in their discreet wisdom say that seeds sown in secret always yield the most vibrant fruit. The inventive structure, cultural details, and a relatable struggle for connection and dignity make this exactly the kind of book that wins literary awards; and Obioma deserves to be recognised for this work. But it's not a perfect read for my tastes: just a bit too long, female characters only serve as obstacles or prizes for the male lead, and everything about the wool-white gosling felt too deliberate to me. Still a worthwhile read that marks a worthy followup to Obioma's debut The Fishermen (which I preferred).
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  • Thabo
    January 1, 1970
    Is the sacrifice, no matter how big or necessary, for you or for them? Think about that, before and after you read one of my favorite books of all time.
  • Andre
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! Although I read this book a few months ago. I have finally got around to crafting some words which I hope testify to my enthusiasm even months after completing this fine work. The fact I can still “feel” this book this is a testament to the strong writing, which I noted as magnetic, makes this January release already a contender for best fiction of 2019! An Andre Ace perhaps. This novel is very different and it is narrated by the chi( the life force in Igbo spiritual systems) of protagonist Wow! Although I read this book a few months ago. I have finally got around to crafting some words which I hope testify to my enthusiasm even months after completing this fine work. The fact I can still “feel” this book this is a testament to the strong writing, which I noted as magnetic, makes this January release already a contender for best fiction of 2019! An Andre Ace perhaps. This novel is very different and it is narrated by the chi( the life force in Igbo spiritual systems) of protagonist Chinonso. A most unusual way to format a novel but it works to great effect. Chinonso goes through some hard times, being scammed, love woes and just overall bad damn luck. Chinonso is a character to root for and his story is told with an emotional intensity that will have you choked with feelings. When a novel can make you feel and care, then you know something magnificent has taken place and believe me, this one is a must read! I rarely reread books, but may make an exception for An Orchestra Of Minorities
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  • Tom Evans
    January 1, 1970
    This was a book I had no idea what to expect as I began, but I was quickly absorbed by its mysticism and unique writing style as part of the Igbo, Indigenous African tradition, from the first few chapters and sustained throughout.Obioma left me engrossed by a unique and memorable protagonist who finds himself a poor poultry farmer chasing the illustrious woman never quite within his reach. Narrated through his chi, essentially his spirit that watches over him, an epic tale unfolds of the power o This was a book I had no idea what to expect as I began, but I was quickly absorbed by its mysticism and unique writing style as part of the Igbo, Indigenous African tradition, from the first few chapters and sustained throughout.Obioma left me engrossed by a unique and memorable protagonist who finds himself a poor poultry farmer chasing the illustrious woman never quite within his reach. Narrated through his chi, essentially his spirit that watches over him, an epic tale unfolds of the power of one's desire and will when feelings of love are concerned. Critically, An Orchestra of Minorities divulges into a dark and dramatic tale, its protagonist at ills with challenge after challenge until he finally succumbs to the futility of his quest. As references to Odysseus become a last glimmer of hope, Chinonso is broken, stripped down and exposed as animalistic, a shell of his previous self. The ultimate act that concludes his story is that of a man whose being has truly died.An Orchestra of Minorities is bleak, dark, and shocking throughout, but at the same time, it is addictive, grand, and memorable. If one can accept the former, the latter makes it a must read for 2019.
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  • Leslie
    January 1, 1970
    So 2019 is off to a roaring start! I adored Obioma's first novel, so much, but I had to DNF this. I was so tired of the narrator philosophizing about Chinonso's circumstances, rather than just telling the damn story. I get that that is the point - his chi was attempting to save him from damnation by explaining the situation that led to why he deserved to basically go to hell. But nearly every paragraph started with an invocation of a different deities and explaining "ah yes this is part of the c So 2019 is off to a roaring start! I adored Obioma's first novel, so much, but I had to DNF this. I was so tired of the narrator philosophizing about Chinonso's circumstances, rather than just telling the damn story. I get that that is the point - his chi was attempting to save him from damnation by explaining the situation that led to why he deserved to basically go to hell. But nearly every paragraph started with an invocation of a different deities and explaining "ah yes this is part of the condition of man that he feels this way blah blah" before getting to... what was actually going on. It was 100% an example of being told, not shown. I feel bad about DNF'ing it, but I'm anxious to start reading one of the 700 books I own that I really, really want to read.
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  • Carol Kean
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant narrative, with riveting prose, a fresh, original voice, a fascinating perspective: the "chi" or spirit co-habiting a human's body is aware of the human soul, but the human is unaware of the chi. Sometimes the chi tries to warn the human of danger or inspire him to take a lucrative course of action, and sometimes the human follows "intuition" to stay out of trouble or go after that girl and win her over.The human in this story is a bitter man with an attitude. At 30, he hires his first Brilliant narrative, with riveting prose, a fresh, original voice, a fascinating perspective: the "chi" or spirit co-habiting a human's body is aware of the human soul, but the human is unaware of the chi. Sometimes the chi tries to warn the human of danger or inspire him to take a lucrative course of action, and sometimes the human follows "intuition" to stay out of trouble or go after that girl and win her over.The human in this story is a bitter man with an attitude. At 30, he hires his first sexual encounter with a prostitute. His confidence built up, he flirts with a street vendor who of course waltzes into his house and proceeds to have a hot and wild affair every day thereafter, until, suddenly, one day she no longer shows up.But the story isn't about a man's assorted sexual conquests, or the way he fancies himself in love with a prostitute old enough to be his mother (she was his first!), or the carefree, carnal, Carmen-like vendor, or the woman on the bridge. This is also about the two chickens. It's about sacrifice.The narrative is unusual, the way one character is addressing a sort of jury, a god of many persons in one, so we get all the god's assorted names. This can make for a difficult reading, until one starts taking notes and committing to memory the names of the god, which happen to be so similar to place names and other characters' names, it makes for slow reading.Ultimately, the chi is arguing for his human, who in a fit of passion commits an act of vandalism against a woman who wronged him, not knowing that he will also commit a murder. I might have sympathized with this man, but for that lurid description of the person who crawls from the scene of the vandalism and dies.I'm trying to avoid spoilers here.That final chapter may be brilliant, but it also made me hate the sad, sorry little man (nodding to "Toy Story" for that line) who thinks it's okay to destroy other people's property to assuage his own wounded feelings.If I were the many-personed god listening to this defense, I'd say "Sorry, this wretch deserves to be separated from his chi," and let him suffer the consequences of his emotional rashness.My Kindle is packed with highlights - the prose is brilliant -- and my Twitter page is filled with some of the grand one-liners, the extraordinary dialogue. I was reminded of "My Sister, the Serial Killer," a novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite - how unfamiliar, to me, the conversational style of Nigerians speaking English. Again, it adds to the reading time, but good things are worth waiting for, and working for. Brain popcorn is forgettable. This is a story you won't be able to forget no matter how much you may want to. That scene on the bridge with the chickens, for one....So, five stars for the prose and the clever narrative structure, but one star for the horrific ending. Average it out, 3 stars doesn't sound like enough, but I'm a woman in the age of the #metoo movement, and some things, I just cannot endorse. I won't condemn, but I won't condone. If that makes me a ruthless, heartless book critic, so be it. I've spent too much time poring over the lurid details of cold cases, unsolved murders, and my sympathy is running low right now.
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  • Lucas Brandl
    January 1, 1970
    An Orchestra of Minorities will definitely be one of the most unforgettable and haunting plots I read all year. I don't think it is giving anything away to say that the main character of Chinonso has had horrible things done to him, and as a result does horrible things. The book is narrated by Chinonso's chi, who is trying to explain to the spirit world how he got to where he got. I liked this device. I've never seen it used before, and it created an interesting twist on a standard first or thir An Orchestra of Minorities will definitely be one of the most unforgettable and haunting plots I read all year. I don't think it is giving anything away to say that the main character of Chinonso has had horrible things done to him, and as a result does horrible things. The book is narrated by Chinonso's chi, who is trying to explain to the spirit world how he got to where he got. I liked this device. I've never seen it used before, and it created an interesting twist on a standard first or third person narration. As a reader, I felt like I could trust the chi as a reliable narrator, but wasn't always sure. The chi is trying to defend the reputation of his host, and seemingly has something to lose as well. What worked really well about this device is the duality it created. There is both a distance from Chinonso that is needed due to the specifics of this plot, but also a deep and penetrating insight on his inner thoughts. The chi also tries to toss thoughts into his host's head, which creates possibilities you wouldn't have with other omniscient narrator structures. The one place where it seems kind of forced is where the chi explains what a chi can and cannot do. Since the chi is presenting his case to a council of divine spirits, it is unclear why these explanations would be needed. The main concern of the book seems to be how people come to do awful things, and how the awful things done to them begin that process. I read the message as being that this is what can happen, but not that it is an inevitability in all cases. There are other characters who find redemption. There are opportunities for this character to get off the path he is on. But ultimately the book would not have worked if he got off that path. Two things that I didn't enjoy about this book: 1) to say that the female characters are underdeveloped would be to suggest that there was any effort at all to develop them. We know almost nothing about any of them, except a few things about the past of Ndali. 2) I felt the book went too far over the top in the bird imagery, and the references to The Odyssey. A little subtlety would have been more enjoyable. Chinonso is clearly on a journey that parallels The Odyssey, but the chi outright references the book twice and compares it. I think the author may have thrown these references in to highlight the differences in the two journeys, but I didn't feel it was needed to hit readers over the head this much with it.
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  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    This wasn’t for me. It’s probably my last attempt with this author. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
  • Joy
    January 1, 1970
    This book includes some of the most gorgeous, powerful passages I’ve read in long time, and the image associated with the title is absolutely heart wrenching. It will stay with me for a long time. The narration comes from the main character’s chi who is relating the events in question as a plea to the heavens for leniency in judgement. The nature of the main character’s offense and the road that leads him there create the storyline.While it seems to be slow going in places, the book builds in la This book includes some of the most gorgeous, powerful passages I’ve read in long time, and the image associated with the title is absolutely heart wrenching. It will stay with me for a long time. The narration comes from the main character’s chi who is relating the events in question as a plea to the heavens for leniency in judgement. The nature of the main character’s offense and the road that leads him there create the storyline.While it seems to be slow going in places, the book builds in layers until the reader is completely invested in the predicaments and passions of the characters. It is a beautifully crafted look at love and betrayal and the struggle to forgive.
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  • Joshunda Sanders
    January 1, 1970
    A truly epic novel about love, deceit, betrayal and resilience steeped in African spirituality. The character’s voices are rich and vivid, as is their switching back and forth between Igbo & English — the language of the fathers versus the White Man’s language. Romance and the salvation one offers another under the auspices of loving come into play here in both light and dark ways. Class considerations and pursuits are rendered carefully to move the plot and the protagonist, Chinonso, forwar A truly epic novel about love, deceit, betrayal and resilience steeped in African spirituality. The character’s voices are rich and vivid, as is their switching back and forth between Igbo & English — the language of the fathers versus the White Man’s language. Romance and the salvation one offers another under the auspices of loving come into play here in both light and dark ways. Class considerations and pursuits are rendered carefully to move the plot and the protagonist, Chinonso, forward quickly, in a struggle between his head and his heart which arguably neither wins.
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  • KayG
    January 1, 1970
    This is a heartbreaking story of a young Nigerian man who falls in love, and in an attempt to better himself for a future with his beloved, is cheated out of everything he owns. The story is imaginatively told by the man’s chi, an inner spirit, which gives a uniquely African element to the story. The chi enlightens the reader on what is happening in the present as well as what has happened in the past when it occupied other bodies. I learned much about Nigeria, the culture of it and Cyprus, spir This is a heartbreaking story of a young Nigerian man who falls in love, and in an attempt to better himself for a future with his beloved, is cheated out of everything he owns. The story is imaginatively told by the man’s chi, an inner spirit, which gives a uniquely African element to the story. The chi enlightens the reader on what is happening in the present as well as what has happened in the past when it occupied other bodies. I learned much about Nigeria, the culture of it and Cyprus, spiritual and religious beliefs, and the struggles of those affected by corruption through no fault of their own. This is perhaps the saddest book I have ever read. This book was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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  • Diane Payne
    January 1, 1970
    I was surprised that I enjoyed this fable as much as I did. Without giving away spoilers, most readers probably expected disasters to occur, and had hunches about the "good news" that wasn't revealed to the end, yet, the journey of the chi, the spirit guide narrating our main character's unfortunate tale is rather moving. It's a bit of a twist to have a Nigerian scammer rip off a fellow Nigerian in such a shameless way since most of us are accustomed to receiving the Please Help: Send Money To B I was surprised that I enjoyed this fable as much as I did. Without giving away spoilers, most readers probably expected disasters to occur, and had hunches about the "good news" that wasn't revealed to the end, yet, the journey of the chi, the spirit guide narrating our main character's unfortunate tale is rather moving. It's a bit of a twist to have a Nigerian scammer rip off a fellow Nigerian in such a shameless way since most of us are accustomed to receiving the Please Help: Send Money To Bank In Nigeria emails. I wish the novel didn't end the way it did, but, of course it had to end that way...
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  • Alejandra Rodriguez
    January 1, 1970
    This story is about Chinonso, a humble poultry farmer, and his downfall. He stops a woman who is about to jump off of a bridge named Ndali. Chinonso and Ndali fall in love, but her parents object to their relationship due Chinonso's social standing and lack of education. At the beginning of the story we know that Chinonso has committed a horrible crime. The narrator of the story is Chinonso's chi, or guardian spirit. The chi is attempting to explain to the gods why Chinonso committed such a hein This story is about Chinonso, a humble poultry farmer, and his downfall. He stops a woman who is about to jump off of a bridge named Ndali. Chinonso and Ndali fall in love, but her parents object to their relationship due Chinonso's social standing and lack of education. At the beginning of the story we know that Chinonso has committed a horrible crime. The narrator of the story is Chinonso's chi, or guardian spirit. The chi is attempting to explain to the gods why Chinonso committed such a heinous act and trying to reason whether it is the man who is at fault or the spirit that guides him.I loved the prose! The use of Nigerian cosmology was very interesting and adds a unique touch the plot. Obioma's writing is stunning; however, the pacing of this book was a little off for me. It was very slow, which usually isn’t a problem for me, but there were a couple of scenes that didn’t add anything to the plot and seemed random and unnecessary. When you add unnecessary content to a book that is already slow-paced it just makes the plot drag on. By the time I got to the climax of the plot I was already disinterested in the conclusion. I thought that the setting was great and that the overall plot was interesting, but the execution was a bit lacking. My main issue with this book is that the synopsis describes it as “contemporary twist on the Odyssey,” yet I did not find that this book had any similarities or comparable plot points to the Odyssey. This book may very well have been inspired by the Odyssey in some way and perhaps it went over my head. I do not tend to read much literary fiction, so this may not have been my ideal book to begin with. It is possible that if I had been a bit more educated about Nigerian history and a bit more well-read that this book would have been a five star read for me, but as it stands I did not think that this book was extraordinary.Thank you to Net Galley for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book!
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  • Karin
    January 1, 1970
    A modern take on the Odyssey, Obioma sets us in Nigeria with the chi, or guardian spirit, of a poultry farmer. After a tense encounter on a bridge, the farmer falls in love with a woman and this sets him off on a journey. But this story stands on its own might, against the Odyssey. It's about changing ourselves for love, and losing control of that love. On a meta scale it's about how Africans are treated when they leave Africa, and the western/white influence on African culture. It's also about A modern take on the Odyssey, Obioma sets us in Nigeria with the chi, or guardian spirit, of a poultry farmer. After a tense encounter on a bridge, the farmer falls in love with a woman and this sets him off on a journey. But this story stands on its own might, against the Odyssey. It's about changing ourselves for love, and losing control of that love. On a meta scale it's about how Africans are treated when they leave Africa, and the western/white influence on African culture. It's also about living with trauma. The farmer has undergone trauma in his youth, having lost both his parents and estranged from his sister. He undergoes further trauma at the beginning of part 3, which I will not reveal as to not spoil. His actions he takes in his present life are as a result of these traumas.Forgiveness is a major theme as well. There is a major plot point around betrayal, and I found this to be the most affecting section of the novel.I am trying to be vague in this review. This book is best gone into knowing as little as possible. Suffice it to say, Obioma tackles major themes in this book with depth and style.
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  • Simone
    January 1, 1970
    If the prey do not produce their version of the tale, the predators will always be the heroes in the story of the hunt.I read this ahead of Chigozie's scheduled appearance speaking at the Lawrence Public Library. I think I liked it more after hearing him talk about it. I listened to this on the audiobook which was great for the voices, but it was also an 18-hour audiobook that I felt didn't really get into the story until 4 hours in. So I'd recommend it, but it's also quite an adventure. It's pr If the prey do not produce their version of the tale, the predators will always be the heroes in the story of the hunt.I read this ahead of Chigozie's scheduled appearance speaking at the Lawrence Public Library. I think I liked it more after hearing him talk about it. I listened to this on the audiobook which was great for the voices, but it was also an 18-hour audiobook that I felt didn't really get into the story until 4 hours in. So I'd recommend it, but it's also quite an adventure. It's probably solidly more a 3.5 for me, but I rounded up. It's a story about a poor farmer, Chinonso, who falls in love with a woman from a well off family, and the journey he undertakes to be "worthy" of her in her family's eyes, but also somewhat in his own eyes. Throughout the story is told by the farmer's Chi, a kind of guardian spirit, who knows some things but not others. It's a lyrical, heartbreaking story.
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    I was surprised by the construction, point of view and emotional depth to this book. Narrated by the soul/spirit of the main character, Obioma brings the reader deep into Chinoso’s mind. His fate seems already decided; he lives a life of hard times and is swindled despite his hard work. After imprisonment, he seethes for vengeance. There were times I was a bit lost in he narration, untangling important moments of reflection, but it’s a powerful and commanding second novel.
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