A modern love story that examines what a person might do for love—and whether fate can render those efforts moot.
In his follow-up to The Fishermen (2015), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Obioma has written a romance with a Nigerian ethos, reinvigorating age-old questions of love and destiny. When Chinonso Solomon Olisa, a lonely poultry farmer, intervenes in the suicide attempt of Ndali, a young woman, his quiet life is disrupted and the two begin an intense and complicated affair of nearly mythic proportions. The story of their relationship is told by Chinonso's chi, or his life force, who has come to testify before the almighty creator on his host's behalf because Chinonso may have killed a woman. The book operates on both physical and spiritual levels, presenting thought-provoking and sage observations about the nature of loneliness ("the violent dog that barks interminably through the long night of grief") and jealousy ("the spirit that stands at the threshold of love and madness"), among other things. Indeed, though the love story that moors the book is dramatic and lends itself to comparisons with similarly epic romances such as The Odyssey—a point not lost on Chinonso's chi—the book tells a distinctly Nigerian story that considers the gambits people are willing to make in an effort to rise above their lot.
A deeply original book that will have readers laughing at, angry with, and feeling compassion for a determined hero who endeavors to create his own destiny.
"This is a book that wrenches the heart with its story of love, migration and inner turmoil, told with remarkable language from start to finish. Narrated by a cast of characters from Igbo spiritual tradition, the story of Chinonso, the chicken farmer begins and ends with tragedy. But his quest for a life with Ndali, the woman he loves, drives him to seek status and wealth as an African migrant in Europe, to transcend Nigeria's formidable class boundaries. The spirits look down on these human dramas of small town Nigeria and reveal the rich complexity of another realm along the way. Obioma's is a tale of Odyssian proportions that makes the heart soar, and a crucial journey into a heartache that is both mythical and real. A stunning book."Booker Prize 2019 Jury citation
"Gorgeously written, with a twist of magical realism and a heavy dose of sad reality."Washington Post
"Transcendent . . . Chigozie Obioma's second novel is a rare treasure: a book that deepens the mystery of the human experience."Seattle Times
"Igbo and Greek mythology are braided into this heartbreaking and utterly unique novel"Boris Kacka, Vulture
"Obioma's frenetically assured second novel is a spectacular artistic leap forwards . . . [it is] a linguistically flamboyant, fast-moving, fatalistic saga of one man's personal disaster . . . Few contemporary novels achieve the seductive panache of Obioma's heightened language, with its mixture of English, Igbo and colourful African-English phrases, and the startling clarity of the dialogue. The story is extreme; yet its theme is a bid for mercy for that most fragile of creatures - a human" Eileen Battersby, Guardian
"Brilliantly intertwining the human and spirit worlds. A major new African writer."Salman Rushdie
"A mystical epic...confirms his place among a raft of literary stars." Time
"Obioma writes with an exigent precision that makes AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES feel at once timely and speculative. The novel aches with Chinonso. His triumphs are rare and hard-won. Obioma compels the reader to root for him, to see the poor chicken farmer's story as an epic."The Atlantic
"It is more than a superb and tragic novel; it's a historical treasure."
"It's a story as old as the epic."New York Times Book Review
"Obioma's novel remains interesting and important"Minneapolis Star Tribune
"The chances that Chigozie Obioma's second novel would match, let alone surpass, "The Fishermen," were slim. Happily, his follow-up, AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES, is a triumph. . . . In an era of copycats, "An Orchestra of Minorities" is an unusual and brilliantly original book."The Economist
"His is a bracing and searing work that compresses an ordinary life into an epic journey."Houston Chronicle
"A tale of mythic nature and epic scale at times recalling Homer's Odyssey-a sweeping story about destiny and the power of choice."Vanity Fair
"Destined to become a classic." Hello Giggles
"A multicultural fable that heralds a new master of magical realism. . . . It's a special writer who can take the familiar tropes found within AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIESand infuse them with new life, transforming them into something exciting and unexpected. Happily, Obioma is exactly such an author."Bookpage, starred review
A deeply original book that will have readers laughing at, angry with, and feeling compassion for a determined hero who endeavors to create his own destiny.Kirkus, starred review
"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."Library Journal, starred review
"Obioma alchemizes his contemporary love story into a mythic quest enhanced by Igbo cosmology. . . . Magnificently multilayered, Obioma's sophomore title proves to be an Odyssean achievement."Booklist, starred reviews
"Unforgettable second novel . . . 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."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"epically imaginative, heartbreaking, and worth the read."Los Angeles Review of Books
"a passionate argument for the enduring vitality of indigenous culture."New Yorker
"Obioma's figurative language is rich and vivid... Obioma's absorbing tragicomedy painfully probes the perils of victimhood."Gulf New Entertainment
"This is a powerful, multifarious novel that underlines Obioma's status as one of the most exciting voices in modern African literature."Financial Times
"An ambitious and immersive tale about love and sacrifice, told by an ancient spirit. A bold new novel from an exciting young writer."Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers
"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."Jennifer Clement, author of Gun Love and President of PEN International
"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."Okey Ndibe, author of Foreign Gods, Inc.
"Chigozie Obioma pens a deeply empathetic, complex, and gut-wrenchingly human narrative that captures the heart and soul. An Orchestra of Minorities stays with you. With remarkable style and compelling language, he explores what it means to experience blinding love and devastating loss. A truly gifted writer, Obioma has proven yet again, that he's a literary treasure."Nicole Dennis-Benn, award-winning author of Here Comes the Sun
Influences 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.]—Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL