Friday, April 22, 2016

The Thing Around Your Neck

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)

Adichie is the author of Americanah, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Purple Hibiscus, as well as the TED talk turned mini-book We Should All Be Feminists. This collection of short stories was the only remaining book of hers I hadn't read, until I just devoured it in the course of two days on my vacation.

Each of the twelve stories has a pretty strong emotional impact, and in non-vacation circumstances I might have taken a bit of a break between each story. They were about families, lovers, immigrants new to America, or Nigerians living in their own country. In "The American Embassy" a woman whose child has died recently stands in a long line seeking asylum to the United States. "Jumping Monkey Hill" takes place at a writer's retreat in South Africa. In "The Arrangers of Marriage" a woman comes to the US to marry a Nigerian man, who immediately begins instructing her how to act more like an American. "Tomorrow Is Too Far" recounts a family tragedy in an almost eerie second person voice.

They were such distinct experiences that it's difficult to talk about the book as a whole, but I can say that all the way through it felt similar to reading other books by Adichie. Though these were only snippets compared to reading a novel, I felt thrust into the characters' lives and minds and surroundings in the same way I do in her novels. I don't know how she accomplished this in so few pages. They were not uplifting stories, and most left me feeling some level of despair for the characters, but somehow the experience was so colorful and full of feeling that reading it was still a positive experience.

Is Adichie even capable of writing anything that is subpar? It seems like even the best authors have one crappy book or story or something, but apparently she does not. I'd be annoyed at how unfairly perfect she is if I didn't love her writing so much.

This is the sixth book I've read for my TBR Pile Challenge, which means I only have four left for the year. I think my next choice will also be the last unread book from a favorite author, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, and I'm hoping to read it in the next month or so to keep up my momentum for this challenge.

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