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An Orchestra of Minorities

Narrated by: Chukwudi Iwuji
Length: 18 hrs and 8 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)
Regular price: $29.65
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Publisher's Summary

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

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. 

©2019 Chigozie Obioma (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic 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)

"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.)

"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)

"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)

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Deep, fascinating, brilliant, frustrating.

This is a multi-layered story in which the protagonist's actions in life are narrated by his chi, or spirit, so the reader is seeing and experiencing Chinonso's life from two simultaneous vantage points: From the meta-level of the spirit, and from the interior world of Chinonso, as described by the spirit. One reviewer commented on how this narrative device keeps us at a remove from the inner workings of Chinonso's mind, and I agree with that, but since Chinonso is basically possessed by and obsessed with his lover, Ndali, the inner workings of his mind seem to run in an endless loop anyway, with only occasional glimpses of reality, so I think the narrative device works well. However, Chinonso's obsession frustrates his chi, and frustrated this reader as well. Have you ever read or watched Othello or Romeo and Juliet, for example, and had the strong desire to yell "Don't do it! Can't you see how stupid you're being?" There are moments like that in abundance in this book. There are long sections, particularly when Chinonso travels to Cyprus to attend college, in which the narrative moves along quickly and sparks with interest. There are other sections, particularly the final two hours of the audiobook, in which the narrative drags into a kind of grinding and painful repetitiveness, and I wanted the chi's observations to stick with the story, and quit with the spirit world stuff. But overall, Obioma's brilliance and energy and vision carry the day. However, in truth, I preferred his earlier novel, "The Fisherman," which was a tour de force. In both novels, the narrator is pitch-perfect and makes the listening experience pure joy.