The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2019
*** BEST FICTION BOOK of 2019!!!
In part because of the deep theological underpinnings of this work, I am often perplexed why faith audiences have not more readily accepted Obioma’s work, not simply for his interest in the spiritual but for his abiding Christian faith as well. Interviews in Christian Century and Christianity Today as well as appearances at the Festival of Faith and Writing and Image’s Glen Workshops show that Obioma is slowly growing roots into this community, and those unfamiliar with his work should take note.
We need more writers who are willing to take on narrative and formal risks like Obioma, not just as an end in themselves, but for the purpose of exploring crucial human questions. In an essay for The Millions, Obioma writes of “audacious prose” that he attributes to heavy-lifters such as Nabokov and Arundhati Roy. It is safe to say that with Orchestra, Obioma has placed his own work in this firmament of writers whose style borders on majestic.
In a recent interview with NPR, Obioma stated that he wanted to attempt a Paradise Lost or Divine Comedy that is thoroughly African. Indeed, publications like The Atlantic have likened Orchestra of Minorities to an epic of Homerian proportions. We, of course, lack the hindsight that tells us what works of literature will last beyond the immediate, but I certainly affirm Obioma’s novel as a masterful work of fiction that teaches us deep truths about humanity and the world that is around us, a world that is more spiritual and fateful than we often think it is. Above all, though, Obioma’s Orchestra reminds us that when we are presented with glimpses of joy in our lives or when love walks across our threshold, we must hold tightly to these moments rather than scheme elaborate plans to obtain more than we are given. It is a novel that champions love and the memory of love, even when the costs are sometimes greater than we imagine.
– from our review of this novel by Aaron Brown
(which appeared in our Lent 2019 magazine issue)