A heartbreaking 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.
"It is more than a superb and tragic novel; it's a historical treasure."-Boston Globe
Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, An Orchestra of Minorities tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks.
Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements... Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home.
Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer's Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Chigozie Obioma’s enchanting novel blends mysticism and heartbreaking realism, breathing magic into life’s painful realities. When young Nigerian farmer Chinonso stops a woman from throwing herself off a bridge, mysterious forces are unleashed. The withdrawn Chinonso’s uncharacteristic intervention sparks a doomed love that takes him far from home and everything he holds dear. Obioma tells the story from the perspective of Chinonso’s guardian spirit, or chi, an all-seeing narrator. This makes an otherwise ordinary life seem much more significant in the infinite scheme of things, making for a strange and uplifting reading experience.
Set in Umuahia, Nigeria, Man Booker finalist Obioma's unforgettable second novel (after The Fishermen) follows the saga of Chinonso, a young and doomed poultry farmer. The story is narrated by Chinonso's chi, the guardian spirit that bridges humans and the divine in Igbo cosmology; this narrator functions as both advocate and Greek chorus in the tragedy that unfolds. Orphaned and broken by his father's death, Chinonso spends his life in isolation caring for his beloved chickens, until he sees a woman preparing to jump to her death off a bridge. She turns out to be Ndali, the daughter of a prominent local family. Suicidal in the wake of a broken engagement, Ndali is drawn to Chinonso's fierce protectiveness of his flock, seeing in him a steadiness and resoluteness of character, but she's blind to the anger and sorrow at his core. The two quickly fall in love, despite her family's mounting objections. In a bid to win their approval, Chinonso takes up an old acquaintance on the offer of university education in Cyprus, selling his family's property and possessions to pay for it. The con is painful and clear as day; Chinonso is robbed blind and left stranded in an alien land. After he meets a sympathetic nurse, a moment of violence lands Chinonso in jail, where he must bide his time still burning with a violent determination to reclaim the life he lost and punish those responsible. Obioma's novel is electrifying, a meticulously crafted character drama told with emotional intensity. His invention, combining Igbo folklore and Greek tragedy in the context of modern Nigeria, makes for a rich, enchanting experience.
Suffered from lack of editing
This book would have been a fine book if only it had a good editor willing to cut the text down by at least a third. I found myself initially interested by the story and the chosen narrator, then bored by the extraneous stories and diversions (e.g. the details of a store transaction carried out by strangers) and then finally angry by the third portion of the book when I began to skip entire sentences in the hope that I would be able to finally finish the book and end my suffering sooner. It is a shame because I really enjoyed The Fishermen by the same author. This book reads instead like the debut novel of an author who having so much to say, decided to be sure to say it all.