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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: The Fishermen

The Fishermen - Chigozie John Obioma

My favorite of the 2015 Man Booker Prize contenders (barring possibly The Year of the Runaways, of which I was unable to acquire and evaluate), The Fishermen is an engaging tale with the weight of a biblical narrative or the power of mythology. This is the story of brotherhood, first and foremost; Obembe and Ben, Ikenna and Boja: these are stories that seem to follow in the wake of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Joseph and his brothers.

 

The narrative is simple, but beautifully drawn. The brother characters aren't particularly the most memorable I've come across, but their relationships with one another really add to the story. The most memorable characters are the “antagonists,” played by the imaginations of the brothers, voiced by the local madman. While it is the madman's prophecies that threaten the family, it is each family member's fears and illusions that really begin to tear at the seams. Forming a chain of events that never becomes tiresome, The Fishermen reaches a very satisfying conclusion.

 

Obioma's debut novel tackles several issues—family, mental health, discipline, religion, justice—but at its core it is the story of brotherhood. It's not the most original or epic of stories, but it kept me thoroughly entertained. The Fishermen is a magnificently crafted debut and a thrilling and lyrical fable.