Thursday, March 26, 2015

[Book Review]Americanah

Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Contemporary // Social Issues
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased (Audible)


As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.
Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most powerful and astonishing novel yet (goodreads).

 

This was one of those books that I had head A LOT about, but had always said "eh, one day." Finally, I took the plunge and purchased the audiobook, and it takes so much energy for me to stop singing its praises!


Plot: Americanah ignores all time constraints. It moves backwards in time to give light on a current issue as well as moves sideways. Sometimes I was confused as to what decade we were in, but I can't say for sure if that is due in part to the writing or because I had an audiobook copy. Regardless, that couldn't stop me from fully enjoying Americanah. While Americanah has an overarching romance, I found myself more engrossed in Ifem's experiences in the U.S as a Nigerian immigrant. Her comments and experiences both pushed the envelop, but always had truth and I loved every awkward or uncomfortable interaction with the people she encountered in the U.S. 

Characters: Americanah was chock-full of characters which was both a positive aspect and negative. For positive, it strengthens the world that both Ifem and Obinzhe live in and create interesting situations, but it found it difficult to keep all the characters straight. By the time Ifem came to the U.S, I had forgotten most of her Nigerian friends, so when the story visited the past once again, or when Ifem went back to Nigeria, I had a hard time associating specific characteristics with the character names. 

As I said, the love story between Ifemulu and Obinzhe is mentioned throughout most of the story; however I found that to be the weakest element in Americanah

World Building: Adichie's world building was spot on. I usually don't read a lot of contemporaries because I find the worlds to be too similar, but Adichie turned my beliefs on their head. She described the U.S with such vivid detail that I felt like I was at Princeton or at a stuffy cocktail dinner, or at a hair salon run by Francophone African women. I especially loved Ifem's return to Nigeria because it was clear that her view of Lagos was extremely different than how she viewed it before she spent over a decade in the U.S. 

Audio Book Performance: To be honest, I was very hesitant to buy the audiobook version, because I had read countless reviews on Audible claiming that the narrator was unbearable. As this book is 17 hours long, I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to have to suffer for that amount of time, but I still took a chance on Adjoa Andoh, and I'm happy I did. I really really really enjoyed Andoh, she honestly was one of the reasons I couldn't put the book down (er, take my earphones out?). I'm not good at accents, this is clearly a strength of Andoh. She was able to differentiate Nigerian English, British English, Francophone-accented English, and American English. And let's be honest, I would not have been able to pronounce half of the names or understood the nuances of certain Nigerian English expressions without Andoh's expert delivery. 

Short N Sweet: Americanah is a brilliant observation on race issues in the U.S, and cultural differences. This is especially important narrative that will make you stop referring to Africa as you would a country. The characters were a bit overwhelming, but my interest never waned. 


2015 Audiobook Challenge Entry

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