Oh, the importance of siblings! Have a relationship with your siblings? What type? I have sisters, and I’m lucky to have a relationship with them. Of course, we have clashes from time to time, but we have developed a warm connection. Reading the debut novel The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma let me reflect on my response if this bond we cultivated vanished. This would be a devastating blow!

The novel centers around a tight-knit middle-class religious Nigerian family living in Akure, Nigeria, in the 1990s. The family’s strong ties start to crumble when the father is transferred to another town by his employer, leaving his wife to raise six children while also working outside the home. Benjamin, number four, narrates the tale in the present time with many flashbacks. Once his father leaves the house, Benjamin and his elder brothers Ikenna, Boja and Obembe have an abundance of free time. Unknown to their mother, the newly acquired free time allows the boys to start fishing in the scary and forbidden local river. The boys find purpose and enjoyment being fishermen until they cross paths with the local madman, Abulu, who tells them a tragic prophecy. This prophecy fractures sibling loyalty and demolishes the strong family bond.

The story was powerful with the mix of present and past times and the beautiful vivid prose, although at times verbose. I loved how Obioma masterfully intertwined the rich Nigerian culture and politics of that time. However, this being said, I wouldn’t say I liked this book. It was a difficult read because it was dark and gut-wrenching. The family just could not catch a break, and one prophecy wreaked unbelievable havoc. It made me ponder about prophecies, how much weight to give them, and when they become self-fulling. Do you believe in omens?

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