Title: The Fishermen
Author: Chigozie Obioma
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
‘We were Fishermen: My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria where we had lived together all our lives.’
Ever since I started reading books, I have only teared up once – well, maybe three or four times at the end of a story. The Fishermen almost had me bawling all through as I read through the eyes of the narrator, Nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of the four brothers – Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Benjamin.
Mr Agwu who works for the Central Bank of Nigeria is determined to ensure that his children “dip their hands into rivers, seas, oceans of this life and become successful: doctors, pilots, professors, lawyers.” However, his transfer to Yola paves way for various events that lead to the destruction of the whole family.
Despite their mother’s efforts to take care of the boys and their sister, the brothers break free of their father’s hold (due to his absence), causing trouble at every opportunity.
On a particular fishing expedition at the forbidden Omi -Ala river, the boys get more than they bargained for when they come in contact with the feared mad man, Abulu who prophesies that Ikenna, the eldest, will be killed by one of his brothers.
“He was robed from head to foot in filth. As he rose spryly to stand, some of the filth rose with him, while some was left in patches on the ground. He had a fresh scar on his face just below his chin, and his back was caked with a dripping mess from some dead mango in a state of putrefaction.”
Abulu is widely known by the people of Akure for his ability to predict the future as a lot of his predictions have come to pass. His prophecy precedes a line of events that lead us to the heartbreaking climax as the Agwu family is thrown into one tragedy after the other.
Fear, Distrust and Violence becomes the order of the day as the weight of the prophecy weighs Ikenna down making him wary of his younger brothers. Convinced that one of them will kill him, he becomes highly temperamental, destructive and begins to isolate himself from the family that loves him.
The events that follow are chilling, vivid, dark and haunting. The brothers become torn apart; their mother becomes hospitalized while their father becomes a shadow of himself as the dreams he has for his children come shattering down right before him.
Overall, The Fishermen makes an interesting read as the narrative is simple, straightforward and as detailed as possible. As a reader you are pulled into every emotions the characters feel – pain, sorrow, anger etc. However, the plot gets on to a slow start which may be discouraging. If you feel discouraged, keep reading because the second half is likely to keep you glued to your chair.
For me, it’s a 3.5 over 5.
Have you read The Fisherman? What do you think about it?