cover image The Road to the Country

The Road to the Country

Chigozie Obioma. Hogarth, $29 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-59697-5

Obioma (An Orchestra of Minorities) explores the complexities of Nigeria’s civil war in his masterful latest. Kunle Aromire, a university student in Lagos, returns to his family’s village in 1967 to help find his brother, Tunde, 17, who disappeared after entering the secessionist territory of Biafra. Tunde, who’s been in a wheelchair since he was hit by a car when he was six, made the risky border crossing to protect a friend facing persecution for being Igbo. Kunle follows, and upon entering the territory, he’s arrested and conscripted into the Biafran army, with whom he feels “the sense of being trapped in a burning house.” After trying and failing to escape, he grows close to his comrades, including a Shakespeare-quoting poet and a devout Catholic, though he remains terrified of combat, especially given that he’s fighting on the poorly equipped losing side. He also serves alongside an Igbo woman named Agnes, whom he’s immediately attracted to. Twists and turns ensue as Kunle discovers Tunde’s fate and learns of the horrible reasons behind Agnes’s determination to fight. With heartbreaking realism, Obioma captures the dizzying atmosphere of despair, determination, and chaos surrounding the Biafran soldiers. This live-wire war story is not to be missed. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (June)