In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them.
Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.
Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)
Published: 2010 | Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | Pages: 240
The Thing Around Your Neck is a pretty good collection of twelve short stories and a fast read. Adichie manifests her effortless artistry with words and I enjoyed the stories- hence my rating of 4 stars. Since most of my life experiences are American and Ghanaian, I could relate to a good number of the stories, as they are set in the US and Nigeria (Ghana’s anglophone West African brother nation).
But I was dissatisfied at how most of the stories had weak conclusions. I’ve read other short story collections and enjoyed them more, such as Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta. Despite my slight disappointment, my favorite stories were:
“A Private Experience” – a touching tale of two young women from different religious backgrounds who take temporary refuge in an empty shop during a riot in Kano, Nigeria.
“The Shivering” – a modern story set on the Princeton University campus where two African students form a strong friendship, despite their different beliefs and sexualities.
“The American Embassy” – a disheartening tale of a woman trying to seek asylum in America after witnessing the murder of her baby son by armed robbers.
The rest of the stories were good, but again, their conclusions were not that great to me. Also, because I read Americanah before this book (in October 2013), I found some of the characters from both novels a bit similar.
My favorite quotes from The Thing Around Your Neck:
“It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope.” pg. 26
“She dated married men before Obiora- what single girl in Lagos hadn’t?” pg. 31
“I remember now that I once saw you on the shuttle. I knew you were African but I thought you might be from Ghana. You looked too gentle to be Nigerian.” pg. 151 (Hahaa!)
“I was happy when I saw your picture…you were light-skinned. I had to think about my children’s looks. Light-skinned blacks fare better in America.” pg. 185
I could discuss these quotes till Thy kingdom come. There’s so much to analyze from them to keep a conversation going for a while!
Purchase The Thing Around Your Neck on Amazon.
Darkowaa (@AwoDeee) is an American born Ghanaian, currently living where her heart feels most at home – Accra, Ghana. She doesn’t consider herself a writer or a bookworm… She prefers to call herself an African Book Addict! Books written by people of African descent / from the African diaspora excite her the most, and hopefully they’ll excite you too!
Review originally posted on AfricanBookAddict.com
Related country: Nigeria
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