On Twitter, I have a friend who loves audiobooks and occasionally tells me about some of the books she listens to. But frankly, I don’t see where the appeal is in listening to them. I used to think I’d only get distracted. But out of curiosity, I tried listening to some audiobook samples, once or twice. The result was – either the narrators annoyed me, or else, I had to keep holding back a snort.
However, all that has changed now. Ever since Jess The Audiobookworm introduced me to my very first audiobook, which so happens to be Omari and the People, I’ve switched over to the dark side and can now officially say that I’m a convert. I’m just so glad and grateful that my first audiobook experience had been an extremely wonderful and joyful one.
O M A R I & T H E P E O P L E
Author: Stephen Whitfield
Narrated by: Curt Simmons
Length: 11 hrs & 17 mins (unabridged)
Published by: ShirleyCastle Press on 20 June 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery, Romance
My Rating: 5 stars ★★★★★
Synopsis: In a squalid ancient city on the edge of a desert (based in part on the African Sahara’s Empty Quarter) a weary, thrill-seeking thief named Omari sets his home afire to start anew and to cover his many crimes. When the entire city is unintentionally destroyed by the flames, the cornered thief tells the displaced people a lie about a better place which only he can lead them to, across the desert. With the help of an aged, mysterious woman who knows a better place actually does exist, they set out. The desperate people must come together to fight their way through bandits, storms, epidemics, and more. As a result of Omari’s involvement with Saba, a fiercely independent woman who is out to break him in the pay of a merchant whom he has offended, his life and the life of the caravan are in danger.
I am the girl who usually has trouble catching words, especially if the speaker has an accent. And I am the girl who constantly prefers subtitled movies in order to understand better what the characters are saying. In other words, I’m a bad listener.
And yet… I was STUNNED by how easily Curt Simmons’ narration drew me in. His narration came so naturally to me, it felt like I was really there with the characters. Plus even though I already expected some trouble distinguishing the voices, Curt somehow manages to slide easily from one voice to another and still provide you with a clear distinction. His narration is so impressive – it evokes strong and vivid images making the setting and the world that Stephen created seem realer and more tangible.
Indeed, Stephen made the right choice of choosing Curt to narrate his book. Not only did it elevate his book to an all new height, Curt’s narration brought it to life and made it that much more appealing to buy. My only complaint, however, is the length of the narration which I know couldn’t be helped. But at least the rapid pace of the story compensated for that.
The content of the book is so much more interesting than its cover. Omari and the People is a powerful tale of adventure, curiosity, romance, lore and of course, my personal favorite – magic. Their journey was triggered by the burning of their city, in which Omari was forced to lead the people safely across the desert and into the promised land.
“She leaned forward and opened her eyes wide. “Allow me to offer you some free advice – trade your gems away and keep your opinions to yourself.”
― Stephen Whitfield,
To my surprise however, I actually found myself enjoying the whole journey. Upon finishing it, I realized that Omari and the People bore some semblance to the tale of Moses and their journey to Canaan, a familiar Bible story that is very, very close to my heart.The amount of ups and downs they experience here are almost equal and yet it was mostly due to their struggles that I kept listening to the book.
I also loved the play of conflict here and how Stephen wove it expertly into the story. (I really do love books that have great conflict and tension.) Along the way, the caravan faces a whole variety of obstacles: starvation, sandstorms, raiders, sickness and even uncertainty. Not to mention the copious internal conflicts that come with their circumstances. These obstacles will ultimately mold them, reshape them, transform them, until they are no longer the people they used to be before their city got burned.
“The Market Square was the center of The City’s community, and for most of the people, the highlight of their lives.”
― Stephen Whitfield,
I was also quite fond of the characters, especially Umal. Everyone has their own unique strengths and flaws, something they want to protect, something that they desire, and those are the things that keep them interesting and genuine as characters. Umal, however, is the most different one of them all and is probably the only magical being in the story – and until now, I still don’t know exactly what she is. All you have to know is that in the story, she serves as Omari’s guardian and advisor, and was the one who masterminded Omari’s leap to leadership.
As the main character, Omari starts out as an apathetic thief who only finds joy and excitement in what he does for a living. But for all his wealth and treasures, he was an unhappy man. His relationship with his wife was strained and broken. And he had no care or whatsoever for the people of the city, save for an old woman named Umal. But after becoming the leader of the caravan and experiencing what they had, Omari had come a long way from being that apathetic thief into a kind of man who’s grown attuned to the needs of others. The level of character development here was significantly great that my attachment to the story only grew deeper than before.
“No one can stop death, Omari. It is normal and certain. And nothing should get in the way of a person’s true destiny.”
― Stephen Whitfield,
Another one of my favorites was the worldbuilding/setting. You will see that Stephen really put a lot of research into the setting and describes the scenes like a total pro. And I admit – I really don’t like desert-type landscapes because they feel bleak and unfamiliar but in this case, I actually grew to love it and I think I owe most of this to Stephen’s writing. You should also see the history/background information behind the book. Personally, I find it fascinating.
“What you must do,” she continued, “you will. Your mission will be as clear to you and as demanding as your heartbeat. Everything else is just a waste of your time.”
― Stephen Whitfield,
The ending of this book also left me with heaps of questions that I wanted answered. One of them is Umal’s true identity, as I’ve already mentioned. And also, where did Omari go to at the end of the story? Does Saba ever achieve her goal? Will she and Omari see each other again? Having these questions circulate around my mind is like having flies buzzing above my head. It’s annoying. Can we please have like… a sequel? Pretty please? (A novella will also do!) But nah – I have a feeling these questions will remain a mystery forever.
All in all, Omari and the People was a great listening experience for me. It’s so special in a lot of ways that if you’re looking for a truly good, worth-it audiobook, I would highly recommend Omari and the People to you!
☑ Rich worldbuilding
☑ Huge character development
☑ Intriguing plot and characters
☑ Classical vibe
This book has it all!!!
Happy listening people! 🙂