Tangled in the Net
I read this book quickly, finishing it in one weekend. The language is not complex. It’s a fast read and would be described as an easy one, if the content wasn’t so heavy. Set in Nigeria, the author Chigozie Obioma strings a story called The Fishermen that’s hard to walk away from until you know the end. You become tangled in the net pretty quickly.
The title of the book and the story of a large family intrigued me. Relationships between siblings are always fascinating to me. Who acts like the most like their parents? Which siblings are the closest? Who is fighting and why? Who is outspoken and who is shy? What shapes behavior and personality most? Obioma had me feeling for the parents, and the children, especially when you remind yourself that the story is told from the point of view of Benjamin who is only nine years old. Benjamin was the youngest of four brothers, and there were two additional children younger than him, a boy and a girl.
Those the gods have chosen to destroy, they inflict with madness.Igbo Proverb
One difficult component of the book was the inclusion of a madman who prophesizes awful future events. For me, it wasn’t the prophecies themselves that were disturbing but rather the gross behavior of the madman which continued unchecked. It is unsettling to imagine someone mentally insane with no family and no long term support from mental health professionals, regular doctors, or even the police to regulate completely inappropriate public behavior. Because the prophecies come true, there is immense fear within the characters that becomes stressful for the reader. You want everything to be okay, and it isn’t, and you can’t stop reading.
The Fishermen is the story of one families destiny. It reminds us that as parents we can dream a thousand dreams for our children, but we can’t control their fate.
Set in Akure, the novel also focuses on political and religious contradictions of Africa. Obioma has been called “one of the most original new voices of modern African literature.” Overall, I found this story to have valuable points of meaning and reflections on life in a different culture. Be aware that some of the content is hard to stomach.