“As the great fathers often say, love changes the temperature of a man’s life. Usually, a man whose life was cold becomes warm, and this warmth, in its intensity, transform the person. It grows the small things in his life and puts shine on the spots in the fabric of his life” – An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma is one of those books that touched my soul just like the first time I read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Every word gave me the feels – even if I didn’t relate to what was being said I still somehow felt like I understood.
The story is set in Umuahia, Nigeria and focuses on the character of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer. There is a great focus on Nigerian Igbo beliefs in which each person is guided and looked over by guardian spirits “chi”. Each individual Chi go through a cycle of life, death and then reincarnation which sees them enter a new host. In this present day cycle the chi has taken the story’s main protagonist Chinonso Solomon Olisa as its host.
Chinonso is a lonely person filled with a deep hollow cavern in his soul. He has no parents in this world and his sister ran away from home with another man. Chinonso spends his days raising fowls at the Poultry farm his father left him after his death.
One night everything changes for Chinonso when he is on his way home after buying new fowls from the market and he spots a woman who is about to jump off the bridge overlooking the Amatu River. Chinonso takes action by throwing his new fowl off a bridge in order to show the woman the consequences of doing so as he has a first hand account of despair which in turn, allows him to talk her out of suicide.
Bonded by this strange night on the bridge, both Chinonso and the woman Ndali fall in love. However, this is truly a bitter love story as Ndali’s family object to their union as they are from a wealthy background and Chinonso is deemed not worthy.
“Do you know you are playing with Fire? You are cuddling a consuming fire. You are romancing the child of a tiger…”
Thus, for the sake of not losing his true love, Chinonso is coerced into selling his poultry farm and most of his possessions, setting off to Cyprus to study at a university. However, all is not what it seems as the cracks soon become visible.
There are so many words I can use to describe this book but none would be worthy. All I can say is that this book was exceptional, beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking, reading this brought back memories of how Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami made me feel when I read it for the first time.
The story is pure genius and so clever as you journey through this bitter love story from the point of view of Chinonso’s chi watching as fate gets in the way of what should have been. The whole concept of a cosmic world in which outside an individual’s body exists spirits who guide their hosts blew me away. I loved how the story was narrated by the chi of Chinonso and the idea that the reincarnated chi has lived multiple lives spanning hundreds of years. Moreover, there are many powerful moments in this books with regards to classism, racism and life. There are so many quotes from this book that I felt deep in my soul, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Chigozie Obioma’s writing.
In addition to this, although the novel uses a similar concept of a poor man falling in love with someone not on the same level as him the Nigerian twist felt fresh and definitely packs a punch.
In terms of the main character, I really liked the character of Chinonso. It made me so happy for him once Ndali came into his life as it really filled that empty hole in his heart
“She poked her hand into the dark and secret places of his life and touched everything in it. And in time, she became the thing his soul had been yearning after for years with tears in its eyes.”
However, I felt so bad for him, seeing his life slowly crumble in the name of love was heartbreaking for me. Things really take a dark turn when Chinonso is in Cyprus and I just couldn’t help but want to shout at his decision for going there. The way he was treated by Ndali’s father and brother really disgusted me and the whole idea of a persons class being important needs to go in the bin! There’s one point in the story when Ndali’s brother refers to Chinonso as a “Church Rat” followed by something so heartbreaking that I wanted to throw the book at my wall in anger.
Overall, this novel is truly one of the best books i have ever read and is already my book of the year for 2019. It’s an epic novel about how far we will go in the name of love and how fate can change things in an instant. Following Chinonso’s journey as he goes through things such as deceit, betrayal and his losing battle to overcome what life has put him through made for an emotional read. I can already tell that in years to come this book will be considered nothing short of a classic.
Thank you to Little Brown Books and Kim for sending me an early copy! I’m so grateful to have had the chance to read and review this amazing book. The book is out on the 17th of January so get preordering 👌🏾👌🏾