An Orchestra of Minorities

Little, Brown. Jan. 2019. 464p. ISBN 9780316412391. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316412414. F
OrangeReviewStarInfluences like Homer's Odyssey, Shakespeare's Othello, and The Divine Comedy inform Obioma's examination of the Igbo tribe's cosmology of destiny vs. the Christian tenet of free will. This conflict is told through the compelling narrative voice of a "chi," or guardian spirit, as it appeals to the gods on behalf of its host, the chicken farmer Chinonso Solomon Olisa. A chance encounter on a bridge with a woman named Ndali who is contemplating suicide changes the trajectory of Chinonso's life in devastatingly unforeseen ways. He and Ndali, a student of pharmacology, engage in a love affair troubled by her influential family's disapproval and his deep insecurities. She is entranced by Chinonso's simple farming life, the respect he holds for his ancestral lands, and the affection he displays for his animals and birds. Yet in an ironic twist he secretly plans to sell it all for a ticket to Cyprus and a university degree that he believes will secure her family's esteem. Obioma overwhelms readers with a visceral sense of Chinonso's humanity, his love, his rage, and his despair as he struggles between fate and self-determination.
VERDICT Nigerian writer Obioma blazed into the literary firmament with The Fishermen, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2015, but this second, more ambitious and imaginative novel may be the one that cements his name in readers' minds. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/18.]

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