Book Review - Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah features Ifemelu, a Nigerian teenage girl who migrates to the U.S. to seek a better life. She leaves behind a boyfriend with whom she had fallen hopelessly in love, and who loved her back just as much. Obinze, the boyfriend, hopes he'll one day join her in the United States, but uncontrollable circumstances prevent this from happening, and he migrates instead to England, where he is employed illegally, and eventually, deported back to Nigeria after been exposed.
The two long-lost lovers finally meet again 15 years later, when Ifemelu leaves everything in the US behind and makes the decision to relocate back to Nigeria. Before her final move, the story delves on flash backs that take us through Ifemelu's existence in the US, the phases she goes through, the difficulties and hardship she faces during her transition from one country to the other, as well as other adversaries. The time eventually comes for her to make the move back, and what follows is a roller-coaster ride of emotional ups and downs, joy, pain, panic, shock, disbelief, anger, even irritation, and everything else in between.
Americanah is a mind-bugling but brilliant work, one I couldn't put down until I was done with it. It is masterfully written by a master-minded writer; Adichie is indeed a great wordsmith. Her style is thought-provoking, enticing, seducing you into the scene of things, forcing you to think beyond your thought limit. As a West African myself, Ifemelu's story of her life before she migrated reminded me so much of my childhood; it was like I was living her life, and she was narrating my story. I loved that aspect of the book quite a lot.
Having said that, I began to get a little confused about the focus of the book, because, at first, I thought it would be solely about the love story of Ifemelu and Obinze. Instead, I found there were a little too many themes presented in one book. A large part of the book delved more into the issue of hair and race, which goes back to the issue of identity. A woman's hair, in this sense, represents who she is. And for Ifemelu, she believed that maintaining her natural look, by keeping her hair natural and free of braids, weave or chemicals, will symbolize her refusal to conform to society's definition of beautiful hair, which in most cases, involves a lengthy (and straightened) colorful texture.
The issue of racism was also very much prevalent in the book, but it seemed a little unfocused to me. It wasn’t very well presented and sounded a lot like rambling and meandering, but then again, the issue was presented in the form of a blog (authored by the main character Ifemelu while she lived in the U.S.), so I can understand the level of informal rambling that is associated with blogging. However, that aspect of the novel left me feeling puzzled, restless, unsatisfied, and wanting to skip the pages to get to the 'other goodies'.
Finally, we get to the final stages of the novel which is when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria. It was exciting to read and witness her return, and her adventures in Nigeria left me feeling nostalgic once more. But here comes another downer – I thought the ending wasn’t very satisfactory. Granted, a small part of me wished it to end the way it did, but a bigger part - the rational, realistic, principled part of me - shunned the ending. I won't give anything away of course, so I can't say any more than I have, but you'd have to read it in order to find out what exactly I am talking about.
Other than the few misgivings mentioned above, there's no doubt that Adichie is a great writer. Americanah is indeed one book you can go back to read and still find new and revealing things you didn't see during the first read. It is a book that stays with you long after you've read it again, and again. On the other hand, however, you may read it once, and never want to read it again! It's up to you, reader!
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
COARSE LANGUAGE: Low
SEXUAL CONTENT: Average to High
Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was purchased by me for my reading pleasure only. I have not received any compensation for writing this review.
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