Synopsis: Going to college in Nigeria during a time of political upheaval is, to say the least, difficult. There are strikes every other week and education is not necessarily a priority at the moment. Encouraged by family and her boyfriend, Ifemelu takes the chance to go America to finish her schooling. There, she starts anew, struggling through new experiences that she has never had to deal with in Nigeria. America is convoluted and messy and not the kind of place she thought it was going to be, and struggling to keep her head above water, she ends up cutting off those she cares about most, including her boyfriend Obinze. Eventually, she uses these new struggles and experiences to begin a blog that takes off faster than she could have anticipated. Meanwhile, Obinze, who can’t get a visa to join Ifemelu in America, goes to England, where he has his own struggles. Eventually gaining himself a fortune back in Nigeria, he marries, but cannot stop thinking about Ifemelu. As the two work through their own personal difficulties and struggles, can they also work their way back to each other?
Review: This novel is so multi-faceted that I don’t even know where to begin. From the love story, to the issues of mental health, to the most raw and truthful look at race in America today, this novel has something for everybody.
Like everything from Adichie, the writing is fluid and beautiful, keeping the pace and the tone at the perfect place throughout the novel. The way she weaved the past and the present together in this novel was perfection. The characters were the a realistic mix of strengths and flaws, making them so relatable.
Ifemelu’s struggles in America were heartbreaking to read, but her triumphs were so inspirational. Her blog posts were perhaps my favorite pieces of the book, as they often showed an intensely real look at what its like to be a POC in America, both born here and immigrating here. The social commentary in this novel is enough to make you question the ways of society and feel the necessary need to get up and make a change.
The romance, though central to the story, took a back seat to all of the social commentary. This story, though it follows a young couple, their beginning, separation and eventual reunion, truly is so much more than a love story. It is about America, Nigeria, men, women, love, hate, sex, race, class, mental health, home, family, friends, and so much more. It covers such a wide range of topics, integrating and intersecting them in such a realistic way that it mirrors real life to a tee.
I highly recommend this novel to all of you. Anyone looking for a contemporary look at race in America should read this. Anyone wanting to read a book that will make them laugh and cry should read this. Anyone wanting to read a book that is capable of making them feel both hope and discomfort should read this. Really, everyone should read this.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Cups of Tea