Book Review: Americanah

June 17, 2013  By: Gretchen

We’ve been bad about posting book reviews lately (though we haven’t stopped reading all of the wonderful books about and set in Africa). We just finished ‘Americanah‘ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and while it’s not focused on animals or safaris, or set in a country that we regularly visit, we were enchanted by the story and her writing just the same.

Adichie is a multiple award-winning author who grew up in Nigeria and now divides her time between her home country and the United States. Americanah is her fourth book and her work has been translated into 30 languages.

After enjoying a privileged upbringing and falling in love during secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze are separated when Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to study in the United States. The plan is for Obinze to follow shortly thereafter, but life intervenes and prevents him. We follow Ifemelu through her first challenging years in the US, where finding a job is difficult (especially as she’s not meant to be working), as well as the realization of race for the first time in her life.

In the meantime, Obinze ends up in London for a brief period, and the two are no longer in touch. We follow his struggles and successes as we do Ifemelu’s until the two are finally reunited back in Nigeria after they each return to a home that feels utterly different after their experiences abroad.

Americanah is not only Ifemelu and Obinze’s love story, it’s also a commentary on cultural differences, and the issue of race in the United States. Adichie creates rich and complex characters that were immediately engaging and had us thinking about them long after we finished the last page. Highly recommended.