Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book cover

I enjoyed this novel, probably somewhere between my wife’s five-star review and my brother-in-law’s three-star review. Many of the criticisms Patrick wrote about in his very detailed review rang true to me. The narrative’s balance between focusing on Obinze and Ifemelu seemed a bit off–too much Obinze for him to be a supporting character, but not enough for him to be a co-lead. This was also disappointing for me since he was the character I liked most.

The story deals heavily with Ifemelu’s experience of race in America–“becoming black” upon moving here from Nigeria. This was an interesting perspective, and one I had never read about before. Some of the scenes that are overtly about this experience–mainly about white liberals self-consciously tripping over themselves–came across as somewhat heavy-handed to me, but I also tried to take them seriously as realistic depictions of lived experience. The very fact that they came across as heavy-handed to me is probably indicative of the underlying problems.

I also enjoyed Adichie’s integration of Ifemelu’s blog into the text. This seems like a difficult thing to pull off in a novel, but something that is probably increasingly important for writers to face given how significant online interactions can be in social and personal lives. One of the themes Adichie repeatedly touches on is the gap between the way one perceives oneself and the way one presents oneself in various social contexts. A blog is a prime example of a consciously constructed persona, and provides a great avenue for “showing, not telling” on this theme. The integration into the text felt natural and avoided seeming contrived.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars