I struggled with this book. When it first came out, I picked it up more than once after hearing buzz about it, but something held me off. Then my book group picked it for discussion, and I had no excuse. My initial hesitance lingered, then grew through the reading, and though we had an amazing book group discussion, nothing was said that changed my mind.
Strong points? Characterization. There were wonderfully rich side characters. And places. Scenes in the hair braiding shop in New Jersey were clear and poignant. This book makes hair into a symbol, and I do see that, though whether it’s a race thing, a class thing, or simply a style thing, I’m not sure. Hair care is a huge commercial enterprise, not just in New Jersey or in Nigeria, but worldwide, and seeing it through Adichie’s eyes was enlightening.
There were some other wonderfully insightful moments here, any one of which might have formed the core of this book, had they not been so quickly passed by.
That, for me, was the problem This book was all over the place — not quite a memoir, not quite a novel, not quite a blog. By the author’s own admission, the story was semi-autobiographical. And the main character does have an awful time as she goes from Nigeria to America and back. But nothing about her engaged me. Nothing about her evoked compassion. She was her own worst enemy, making one bad decision after another, sabotaging her own happiness and hurting others. Yes, she encountered racism. But she too often blames it for things that may, indeed, be simple facts of life