I’m late to the party on reading this book, and loving Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve been meaning to read this since I read The New Yorker profile of Adichie. It took me a while to read this one (although I’ve been working on a few other things too), but once I got about half way through I just couldn’t put it down. And now I’m debating when I’ll be able to read some of her other books (my to read list is like 30 books long, at least…).

Adichie’s novel tells the story of a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who is living in America as the story opens but is preparing to move back to Nigeria after 15 years away. The story flashes back to teen Ifemelu in Nigeria, and for the first six parts of the novel we spend more of our time seeing her grow up, go to college, get a visa to go to college in America, make a life in America, become a successful blogger, and then make the decision to go back to Nigeria. The final few sections of the book finally take us to Nigeria.

Although I have almost nothing in common with Ifemelu, I had the same problem as I did with The Female Persuasion — wanting to mark every other page of the book to come back to and to write about here. Perhaps because part of the book is set in Philadelphia, a city close to my heart:

[Philadelphia] did not raise the specter of intimidation as Manhattan did; it was intimate but not provincial, a city that might yet be kind to you.

[Disclaimer, Philadelphia might not be that kind to you.] Or, maybe I just really liked Ifemelu, she’s such an intelligent but realistic woman, and I enjoyed see her come into herself (“She had, finally, spun herself fully into being.”).

This is a book that has interesting insights into race and immigration, which are still interesting although I feel like the world, or America at least, has changed tremendously in the last few years. On the race side, Ifemelu’s blog is about being a Non-American Black in America, as she puts it, she wasn’t black until she came to America, race doesn’t mean quite the same thing in Nigeria. Throughout the book we get some excerpts of her blog which I also really enjoyed:

The simplest solution to the problem of race in America? Romantic love. Not friendship. Not the kind of safe, shallow love where the objective is that both people remain comfortable. But real deep romantic love, the kind that twists you and wrings you out and makes you breathe through the nostrils of your beloved. And because that real deep romantic love is so rare, and because American society is set up to make it even rarer between American Black and American White, the problem of race in America will never be solved.

This excerpt from the blog is a bit depressing, although I think rather true; many of the blog excerpts are more sassy.

And well, someone dies off screen in this novel, someone’s mother, and of course that always strikes home for me:

I never thought she would die until she died. Does this make sense? He had discovered that grief did not dim with time; it was instead a volatile state of being. Sometimes the pain was as abrupt as it was on the day [he found out she died] …; other times, he forgot that she had died and would make cursory plans about flying to the east to see her.

I also read N.K. Jemisin’s novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, this week, and sadly I must report that while I enjoyed it, it is not nearly as strong as her more recent AMAZING books in The Broken Earth trilogy. These feel purely escapist, and I’m not sure I’ll make time for the rest of this series. But, I do have her newest short story collection in my current stack so I’m looking forward to that.

Currently reading: SO CLOSE to finishing Not that Bad, not sure what novel I’ll start next.