Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I picked up this novel at Malaprop’s bookstore in Asheville, NC, thanks to their “blind date with a bookseller (‘s recommended book)”. The store wraps books in brown, plain wrapper and an employee covers the front in adjectives describing the book. So, if you like the adjectives, you buy the book. title unseen.
It’s a great idea, because it can expose you to something you might not have picked up otherwise.
I certainly wouldn’t have picked up Americanah. A novel about young Nigerians coming to America? Not my typical fare.
But, a mostly enjoyable read. Adichie writes well, and the book moves quickly. It’s an entertaining glimpse into a world I know nothing about, and probably will never see.
But I ran up against a prejudice I have, and I felt a bit betrayed by the main protagonists, and the ending. Fair warning, I’m doing spoilers here.
There’s a point in the book where a protagonist goes in search of stories where a married person leaves their decent and kind spouse for another, truer love and everything turns out great. She doesn’t find it. I think that’s largely because it’s not an inspirational or even sympathetic story. It’s the main reason why Sleepless In Seattle sucked, and I say this as a big fan of Hanks and Ryan.
It’s a shame when a marriage of decent people falls apart. I understand that someone can realize they made a mistake in marrying too rashly, or for the wrong reasons. And perhaps divorce is the correct thing to do, even if it means the spouse is hurt in the process. Perhaps that’s better than a life of pretense and lies, and hopefully everyone is better off in the end.
But it falls flat as a story. In David Copperfield (and again… spoilers, but seriously, the book is over a hundred years old… read it), Dickens has to kill off the unsuitable spouse to make the story work. In Jane Eyre, the unsuitable spouse is batshit crazy, and commits suicide, and for good measure the other spouse tries valiantly to save them and get injured in the process, before marrying a truer love.
So, I enjoyed the ride of Americanah, but it kind of went off the rails for me at the end.
Maybe the flaw is in me, and not the book. Maybe this book is a bold choice reflecting real life situations that should be explored and considered.
I guess we’ll see how we look at it in another 100 years.