There is much to admire in this, Obioma’s first novel. There is the way he manages the motif that the title introduces. There is his ability to evoke 8-10 characters in such a way that they become unique, dynamic and interesting human beings. This is particularly impressive because 4 of them are brothers. There is the way that Nigeria is always present, but never a dominant piece in the narrative. I even liked the homage to Achebe.

On the other hand, there are some problems. The choice to make the youngest child into a kind of wise-child narrator didn’t make a lot of sense to me. The outcast character who becomes the catalyst seems to be drawn from a familiar archetype – someone who is both crazy and wise. The descriptions of his sexual behavior just didn’t seem necessary. The figurative language sometimes enhances the moment. More often than not, however, it’s kind of wince-worthy.

While I didn’t relish the novel, it is impressive. Obioma manages to find his way to a pretty powerful ending that is absolutely earned.

So get it from the library or wait for paperback. But do read it. I think his best, though, is still in front of him.

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