I think this book was supposed to be provocative, and I think the author tried her very best to be insightful… but it just wasn’t either of those things. And although I was really enjoying myself in the beginning (and the main character Ifemelu’s bold personality), by the end I wanted nothing more than to throw her off a cliff and call it a day. So how did it go from awesome to awful so quickly?
Let me lay it out for you, starting with the story (because that was the root of the problem). Ifemelu and Obinze were two teenagers living in Nigeria. They fell in love, only to be separated when Ifemelu left to attend school in the United States. Not knowing a lot about Nigeria, everything prior to Ifemelu leaving the country was pretty interesting to me. But things started to go downhill quickly once she lands in the U.S. Once there without a work permit, Ifemelu soon runs out of money and once or twice ends up selling herself for money to a man claiming to need an assistant. Although Obinze was supposedly the love of her life, Ife could not bring herself to tell Obinze what she did, so she basically cut him out of her life cold turkey – as in, she stopped responding to his letters, emails, phone calls…. nothing! In a grave depression, she struggles to get by for a long time, but eventually makes it through school. Eventually, Obinze, seemingly moved on too, married another woman. This, as you can imagine, throws Ife into another tailspin. What ends up giving her life purpose is a blog she decided to start up about what it means to be Black in America from a non-American Black perspective. And this is where things start to get really preachy (bring out the soapboxes) and HORRIBLE.
I am by no means saying that the Black perspective is something to be ignored. However, I think there are much more powerful ways to go about portraying the frequent injustices of being Black in America than to ramble on about it under the guise of (poorly written) blog posts. They were so badly written that they were like pulling teeth to get through. I don’t think there is really any possibility these shallow posts masquerading as eye-opening revelations would have become as popular and as well followed as the book made them out to be had this been a real blog that the author posted. These posts didn’t add anything new to the conversation about race – it was more like “Been there, heard that” (and heard it said better, for that matter).
As if the righteous blog (and the righteous tone the book took on once the blog was introduced) weren’t exacerbating enough, throw in some adultery! That’s right – after cutting Obinze out of her life, Ifemelu finally moves back to Nigeria, and she acts like she is entitled to Obinze’s love – and even worse – truly thinks she deserves it! Sorry, but no – she had her chance. I realize her life was ruined by the desperate measures she had to take to make money, but her adulterous ways threaten to ruin the life of Obinze’s now wife and child.
But at least Obinze did not fall for her ploys and told her to go screw herself, right? Wrong! He didn’t tell her to screw herself, he actually screws her (have some self-respect!). And so begins their sordid affair, taking the book from bad to worse.
People are praising Americanah as Adichie’s most powerful book yet. If this book is truly her best, her most powerful, then I don’t even want to know what her others are like. Because this was unremarkable in every way, and utterly forgettable. I don’t know how on Earth people are making it out to be once of the best of 2013.
Final Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.