Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Americanah bears all the hallmarks of the traditional epic story: between the protagonist Ifemelu’s emigration from Nigeria to the other side of the Atlantic, sparking a long process of depression, race-inspired musing, and eventual financial success, and her childhood friend Obinze’s thwarted attempt to make a life for himself in London, the novel encompasses all the heartbreak, alienation, and self-realization that characterizes the best epic novels. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has crafted a novel that handles a difficult topic—race relations, especially in the cultural interactions between African-Americans and non-American blacks—incisively and powerfully while refusing to pander to the reader’s opinions or reservations. Every character (and, given the prodigious heft of this novel, there are many) is treated with a rare mixture of sympathy and harsh honesty, resulting in a cast that strikes the reader as impressively human. Maybe the conclusion, when Ifemelu comes to terms with the personal changes her decade and a half of Americanization has wrought, trails off less powerfully than a novel of this magnitude deserves, but overall Americanah easily proved one of the best books I encountered all year: utterly convincing and unapologetic, the kind of book that it would be a shame to miss.