Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize
A "superb and tragic novel" ( Boston Globe) about a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything to win the woman he loves, by the author of The Fishermen
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.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria. His debut novel, The Fishermen, is winner of the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction, the NAACP Image Awards for Debut Literary Work, and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (Los Angeles Times Book Prizes); and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize 2015, as well as for several other prizes in the US and UK. Obioma was named one of Foreign Policy's 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages and adapted into stage. He is an assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His second novel, An Orchestra of Minorities, was published in Spring 2019 by Little, Brown and Co.
What People are Saying About This
“Chigozie Obioma is a gifted and original storyteller. His masterful new novel An Orchestra of Minorities is remarkable for its exploration of universal concepts to do with destiny, free will and luck.”
“Chigozie Obioma is an audacious and ambitious writer, and quite adept at binding the reader to the irresistible spells he casts. An Orchestra of Minorities is a magisterial accomplishment by any measure, and particularly impressive for the way Obioma orchestrates a tableau in which humans and spirits must interact in a complex, emotionally rich-veined story. Few writers can match Obioma’s astonishing range, his deft facility for weaving a mesmeric and triumphant fictive canvas in which—reminiscent of the ancient masters—a cohort of gods presides over and negotiates the fates of humans.”
"An ambitious and immersive tale about love and sacrifice, told by an ancient spirit. A bold new novel from an exciting young writer."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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. 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, and as it has for 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. The book that this reminded me of the most is Lincoln in the Bardo, 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.
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!