Book Review: The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

When the four brothers who are the focus of Chigozie Obioma's debut novel, The Fishermen, decide to go down to their village river to fish, they have no way of knowing that their lives will be changed forever. But their encounter with the town madman on the riverbank--who prophesies that the oldest brother will be killed by one of his fellow fishermen--proves to be a turning point.

Told from the point of view of nine-year-old Benjamin, the youngest of the brothers, the story of Ikenna's descent into fear and paranoia, driven by the prophecy, is heartbreaking in its inevitability. "I have now come to know that what one believes often becomes permanent," Ben reflects, "and what becomes permanent can be indestructible."

This is certainly the case with Ikenna, whose unraveling begins with his belief in the madman's words and ends in tragedy, taking his family along with him. The brothers' family saga is set against the background of a tumultuous and politically charged 1990s Nigeria, which, combined with Obioma's stunning prose and twisting narrative style, succeeds in grounding the tale in the reality of history and emotion while exploring ideas of fate and destiny that feel mythical in their scope. The Fishermen is a story with intent and purpose, slim but powerful, with not a word out of place--and one not to be missed.


The Fishermen | Chigozie Obioma | Little, Brown | April 2015 | Hardcover


  1. I was not drawn to this one based on the initial blurbs (something about the whole prophecy thing turned me off), but a couple review (yours included) are starting to change that :)

  2. Great review. Far better than mine, but at least we both agree that it was great.

  3. Thanks for the review -- I really like the sound of this one. I'm putting this on my TBR!

  4. Thanks! I liked your review, though ;-) I always find it easier to write about great books. Well--actually, no, sometimes I feel I can't do them justice.


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