the fishermen by chigozie obioma

“That story, as all good stories, planted a seed in my soul and never left me.”

Sometimes I like to change from my usual Young Adult reads and switch to something else. In this case, I was in a dreading reading slump, and I needed something different to get me into my reading routine after heavy nights of studying. I had this book on my TBR for quite a long time and decided, well, why the hell not? I hadn’t bought any books in 3 months and I might as well reward myself with something new. The book was under 300 pages and I was still in the mood to read but nothing too heavy at the time. So I picked it up.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is set in mid-1990’s Akure, Nigeria, surrounding four brothers, a tale of friendship, love, trust, revenge and family. The story is told from the youngest of the brothers perspective, Benjamin.

One day, their strict father travels to work in a city distant from their own leaving them with their two younger siblings and their mother, and the brothers take advantage of it. They start skipping school for a while, taking time with each other, and find a new hobby with friends: fishing.

A bond forms between all of them, until one day, near the dangerous and cursed river which no one ever dares get close to, they meet the local madman who persuades and assures the oldest of the brothers that his fate lies in the hands of one of his brothers for he will be murdered. A series of shocking and powerful events follow soon after.

“The things my brother read shaped him; they became his visions. He believed in them. I have now come to know that what one believes often becomes permanent, and what becomes permanent can be indestructible.”

The author did an amazing job on the narration. The voice might have been young (Benjamin is only 9 years old in the beginning), but struck me as mature in the sense that Ben’s actions, mindset, and words felt relatable. Most of the time, younger narrators would feel too naïve or out of place, but this one hit home.

The tale is something in itself. The story is so powerful, given its a Cain and Abel-esque retelling, set in modern times. Even though we never leave the location, Obioma still manages to make the story appear to be universal, blending politics and religion and economy, making it seem like something out of this generation.

Its a bold and powerful novel, especially for a debut, and it almost feels like reading a poem. The story goes smoothly, never dragging or leaving the reader craving. It goes on and on like a symphony, always leaving you on the edge, never quite satisfied or bored.
The prophecy isnt limited one family member, but slowly unravels itself  and latches onto everyone in the family, having a huge impact on each and every one of them.

Most notably, Ben has an interesting and beautiful way of viewing his family members, as animals that fit their characters and traits. It gives a whole new perspective of the characters personalities.

“Mother was a falconer. The one who stood on the hills and watched, trying to stave off whatever ill she perceived was coming to her children. She owned copies of our minds in the pockets of her own mind and so could easily sniff troubles early in their forming, the same way sailors discern the forming foetus of a coming storm.”

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars. It may sound like a very sad story, but dont let it get to you. Yes, it is indeed a very depressing story, but its also very uplifting. You will know when you read it. Its a nice refreshing read, uncovering a story of fearlessness and the beautiful African culture through one of the new voices of literature. I highly recommend this to anyone whos looking for a diverse and unique read.

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My name is Batool, but I’m mostly known as Bat or B, so you can call me whichever you prefer. Not only an avid reader and goofball, I’m also a student and professional procrastinator.

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