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An Orchestra of Minorities
Cover of An Orchestra of Minorities
An Orchestra of Minorities
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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.
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.
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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 a finalist for the 2019 Booker Prize.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2018

    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, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 8, 2018
    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.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2018
    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.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from November 15, 2018
    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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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