An orchestra of minorities A novel

Chigozie Obioma, 1986-

Book - 2019

"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."--Publisher's description.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Little Brown & Company 2019.
Language
English
Physical Description
464 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9780316412391
0316412392
9781408710807
1408710803
Main Author
Chigozie Obioma, 1986- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* The story seems familiarly simple. A man and a woman fall in love, but their happy-ever-after is fraught with obstacles. Yet nothing is quite that straightforward in Obioma's (The Fishermen, 2015) latest, starting with his narrator, who happens to be a 700-year-old chi (guardian spirit) who inhabits Chinonso, a young Nigerian poultry farmer more bonded to his fowl than any human companions. Chinonso meets Ndali when he prevents her from committing suicide, but their relationship cannot survive her wealthy family's rejection of Chinonso because of his humble circumstances. Determined to prove himself worthy, Chinonso sells everything he owns to pursue a university education in Cyprus, only to make the bleak discovery that he's entrusted his future to a primary-school friend who has utterly betrayed him. His determination to return to Ndali is all that keeps him alive. By having Chinonso's chi serve as storyteller, Obioma alchemizes his contemporary love story into a mythic quest enhanced by Igbo cosmology, centuries of history revealed through glimpses of the chi's past hosts, elements of autobiography conjuring Obioma's own Cyprian education and his meeting a fellow Nigerian whose dire experiences initially sparked the novel. Magnificently multilayered, Obioma's sophomore title proves to be an Odyssean achievement. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Man Booker Prize short-listed for his dazzling debut, The Fishermen, Obioma again overlays contemporary concerns with a mythopoetic framework—in this case, Homer's Odyssey, though the narrator is an ancient chi, or guardian spirit. In Nigeria, poultry farmer Chinonso stops a young woman from jumping off a bridge by sacrificing two prize chickens to the waters (that awful splat!), then falls in love with her and seeks to prove his worth, starting with a quest for education in which he's tricked, then sidelined and left penniless in a heartless world. With 50,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

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 Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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. (Jan.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

In a contemporary twist of Homer's The Odyssey, a guardian spirit recounts the tragic story of a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything for the wealthy woman he loves. By the award-winning author of The Fishermen. 50,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"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."--Publisher's description.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

In a contemporary twist on Homer's "The Odyssey," a guardian spirit recounts the tragic story of a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything for the wealthy woman he loves.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

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.