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Library Journal Review
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 Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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 PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*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.--Terry Hong Copyright 2018 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
A modern love story that examines what a person might do for loveand 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 Odysseya point not lost on Chinonso's chithe 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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.