You have never read a novel like this one. Winner of the 1991 Booker Prize for fiction, The Famished Road
tells the story of Azaro, a spirit-child. Though spirit-children rarely stay long in the painful world of the living, when Azaro is born he chooses to fight death: "I wanted", he says, "to make happy the bruised face of the woman who would become my mother." Survival in his chaotic African village is a struggle, though. Azaro and his family must contend with hunger, disease and violence, as well as the boy's spirit- companions, who are constantly trying to trick him back into their world. Okri fills his tale with unforgettable images and characters: the bereaved policeman and his wife, who try to adopt Azaro and dress him in their dead son's clothes; the photographer who documents life in the village and displays his pictures in a cabinet by the roadside; Madame Koto, "plump as a mighty fruit", who runs the local bar; the King of the Road, who gets hungrier the more he eats.
At the heart of this hypnotic novel are the mysteries of love and human survival. "It is more difficult to love than to die", says Azaro's father, and indeed, it is love that brings real sharpness to suffering here. As the story moves toward its climax, Azaro must face the consequences of choosing to live, of choosing to walk the road of hunger rather than return to the benign land of spirits. The Famished Road is worth reading for its last line alone, which must be one of the most devastating endings in contemporary literature (but don't skip ahead). -- R. Ellis
"Overwhelming - just buy it for its beauty" (New Statesman
"A brilliant read, unlike anything you have ever read before...the message is universal" (The Times
"It is a rich, provocative and hopeful vision of the world, stuffed full of drama and surprise-its literary lineage - the ease with which spirits move through every day life - is from ancient Greece and medieval romances" (Independent
"Okri is incapable of writing a boring sentence. As one startling image follows the next, The Famished Road
begins to read like an epic poem that happens to touch down just this side of prose... When I finished the book and went outside, it was as if all the trees of South London had angels sitting in them" (Linda Grant Independent on Sunday