The novel centres on the lives of four brothers- Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Benjamin who live in a average Nigerian home nurtured by the hopes and dreams of their disciplinary father, Mr Agwu, as well as the instinctive and motherly love of Mrs Adaku.
The boys in one way or the other have had their shares of adventure but the peak of it all is an encounter at the forbidden paths of a stream called Omi-Ala. A place where they became “fishermen” without the knowledge of their mother. This act of rebellion did not only change the trajectory of their lives but it also spiralled into a loop of fear, division and heartbreak. At the stream, they met with the popular Abulu, a mad man, who prophesied the death of Ikenna -the eldest of the boys- by the hands of a fisherman. Ikenna interprets this to mean he would die by the hands of one of his brothers who had been fishing with him for most of six weeks. His fear and belief of this prophecy did not only cause an eternal drift among the siblings but also shattered their lives into a million saddening pieces.
Mr Agwu is shocked to learn of his children escapades and clarifies his desires to them. ”What I want you to be is a group of fishermen who will be fishers of good dreams, who will not relent until they have caught the biggest catch. I want you to be juggernauts, menacing and unstoppable fishermen.”
Chigozie Obioma renders this story ingeniously and takes the art of African storytelling to heights. His narrative style skilfully builds up the plot of the book and gives us a peek into his field of imaginations. He strategically tells this story by employing metaphors and foreshadowing to show how carefully and intentionally the book was constructed.
Detailed descriptions of historical events in the country are woven into the novel spotlighting the 1993 elections and the boys’ encounter with M.K.O. Abiola, a presidential candidate of that time.
In terms of lessons learned, the narrative morally point out how what we believe in indeed shapes us, our actions and reactions. The prophecy became a wound that corrupted Ikenna’s heart and spread till it ate him up. His fear created a portal for all the tragedies that later manifested in the book.
The Fishermen is a book that explores themes of adventure, sibling rivalry, grief, trauma, loss, superstition, all of which plays a part in spiking a readers curiosity and keeps you glued to the book till the end. A good read if you do not mind unhappy endings and tragedy.