To give you an indication of what I think of Adichie’s Americanah, let me just say that I began reading a borrowed copy from a friend, but by the end of the novel I was the proud owner of my own. It is in short nothing less than great. I would even go so far as to say outstanding, not only in how it is written but also Adichie’s nuanced handling of identity, race and cross-cultural experience.
But before I get ahead of myself, here’s what Americanah is all about:
“As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze 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.
Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning ‘Americanah’ is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world” (ISBN: 978-0007356348).
To call Americanah “gripping” is almost an understatement; I was invested every step of the way, not only in Ifemelu and Obinze’s relationship, but also in their lives independent of one another, and Adiche’s commentary on race and culture. Ifemelu’s perspective is particularly interesting given the insider/outsider position she occupies in the US, resulting in a series of articulate, passionate and insightful blog posts. These blog posts which run throughout the novel, allow Adichie to address what is typically a very sensitive subject, boldly and without apology.
At it’s heart however, Americanah is a love story. It is present throughout the narrative, sometimes at the forefront, sometimes in the background, yet not once does it feel contrived or insincere. It’s the kind of love story it’s easy to get caught up in, namely because the characters are genuine; their lives have to go on, and circumstances change in the strangest of ways.
I’ll end by saying that I cannot recommend this book enough!
For those interested, here is Adichie talking about Americanah herself: