It was a fascinating read, this story of a family’s breakdown after a mad man casts a prophecy. On one hand it reads like a Greek tragedy, or at least like something based on mythological, folkloric or even biblical traditions. There’s a healthy amount of foreboding, nature-relate metaphors and “you as your own worst enemy” themes. This feeling is re-enforced by the way the story is told by 10-year old Benjamin, looking back on events. It could’ve easily become heavy-handed, but Obioma always threaded on this side of compelling.
On the other hand, there are incredibly sweet and funny moments. Then the whole thing becomes a coming-of-age story of four brothers growing up in a small Nigerian village, getting into scrapes and going on adventures. There was also a satisfying amount of background into the political landscape of Nigeria in the 90s, which I knew nothing about.
The narrator did the book justice (Nigerian accent helped!) and I could clearly hear both the sadness and the joy in his voice. He managed distinctive characters without using lazy falsettos for the women and farcical voices for men. I’m ready to bet he’s a strong contestant for this Audies category.
For those of you who’ve read it: have you noticed the use of formal English and fancy words? “These people greeted our parents (…) with a boisterous effulgence of geniality.” At points I thought it was just the father’s way of speaking, but the narrator does the same. In the story there’s an explanation on how Nigerians use different languages for different purposes, but I can’t help but wonder: was it a deliberate effort by the author to… Write English Literature?
I’m surprised this is a debut novel and I look forward to reading more by Obioma!
Read for Armchair Audies 2016
Literary Fiction & Classics category