The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma has just been announced as one of the dozen books longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize for contemporary fiction. Chigozie was born in Nigeria and this is his first novel, reviewed by Lauren Cook for the April issue of gr.
During the unrest of Nigeria in the 1990s, four brothers are left to their own devices when their father is sent to work in the city. They grow a little wild but are always sure of their friendship and devotion to each other. Their happiness, however, is destroyed when they encounter a madman whose prophecy implies that one of the brothers will kill one of his siblings.
These words mark the end of their childhood and the destruction of their peace of mind. Suspicion now runs wild through their home, and the prophecy takes on a life of its own. Each brother is haunted by the prophecy and the consequences of their responses to it.
You too will be haunted by this novel. Not only is the plight of the brothers compelling, but Chigozie Obioma’s prose is exquisitely beautiful. His choice of narrator – Benjamin, youngest of the four brothers – allows for an innocent perspective on troubling events. Each chapter begins with Benjamin trying to understand his brothers and the events he is observing by comparing them to the natural world. His mother is a falconer, climbing high and wanting to look out for her sons. Abulu, the madman, is a leviathan, whose words and poisonous presence are unable to be stopped.
Commentators are comparing this book to The Kite Runner for good reason. The Fishermen is shocking and moving – and as compelling as this comparison would suggest. Chigozie Obioma is a major talent, and I predict that this will be one of the books of the year.
5 stars – Scribe $29.99
Reviewed by Lauren Cook