the wonderful world of veena.

17 September 2014

book review: americanah [chimamanda ngozi adichie].

It's been a few months since I last posted about one of the books from my 2014 to-read list, but I have finally finished another one and am ready to share my thoughts!

Adichie's book Americanah has been receiving rave reviews for months about its portrayal of immigrant life in the United States as well as its tackling of what it is like to discover race as a young adult. Naturally I was intrigued, and although it took me a little while to get into the book [being on the road and whatnot], I raced through the last 2/3 of it, often forgoing sleep to stay up and read.

Americanah tells the twisting and turning stories of Ifemelu and Obinze, two young adolescents in Nigeria who meet in secondary school and begin a relationship that will forever impact both their lives. When they are in university, a series of ongoing teacher strikes forces the two on different paths: Ifemelu earns a scholarship to a university in Philadelphia, while Obinze's visa applications are denied and he eventually finds himself living the life of an undocumented immigrant in London.

Over the years Ifemelu's and Obinze's lives diverge. She completes her degree, begins a career in public relations, has two long-term, live-in relationships, and begins a popular blog exploring what it is like to be a Non-American Black living in America. This experience eventually takes her from Philly to Baltimore and finally to Princeton, until she ultimately decides that her heart yearns to return home.

At the same time, we travel with Obinze through the rough streets of London, see him go from terrible job to terrible job, and eventually watch him get deported and land back in Lagos. With nothing to lose, he begins working as a "Program Manager" [pretty much as vague as it sounds] and becomes wealthy overnight. Although his new job helps his popularity and his status grow, he never stops being the quiet, thoughtful boy that he once was.

As we travel along these parallel journeys, Adichie explores a number of topics: immigration, race, the complexity of relationships, and the deep love that two people can have for each other that blinds them to all other things.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it took me a little while to get into the book. I was on the road and nearly to Britney's wedding when I began it, and then my nieces and my brother were here, so I had very little reading time in my schedule, But, above all, what I realized as I progressed in the book was that I didn't necessarily like Ifemelu all that much. As the first part of the book is dominated by her character, it took me a while to plod through it, but as soon as the focus shifted to Obinze, my reading pace picked up. I think I could relate to him a lot better, particularly when their relationship was failing and Ifemelu cut off contact without any explanation [I've been on the receiving end of that, and it sucked big time].

Overall, however, I really enjoyed this one. It's the longest book I had read in a while, but once I got into the flow of it, it moved pretty quickly. Adichie has a great way with words, especially when describing the street scenes in Lagos, and I look forward to reading more of her stories.

currently reading: Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. finally getting around to reading this one after having it on the shelf for far too long.

next on the list: all of these.

[i still say there is no such thing as too many books, but i need to tackle some of these before i am allowed to purchase any more]

*after giving it some thought - and beginning the book and essentially getting nowhere except confused - I am considering replacing Infinite Jest with another book on my shelf. no decisions have been made as of yet, but we will see how the next few months play out. stay tuned!

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