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May 10

Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I received this book for free from ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieThe Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published by Fourth Estate on 2009
Genres: general fiction
Pages: 217
Source: ARC received from publisher
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In 'A Private Experience,' a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she's been pushing away. In 'Tomorrow Is Too Far,' a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother's death. The young mother at the center of 'Imitation' finds her comfortable life threatened when she learns that her husband back in Lagos has moved his mistress into their home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to re-examine them. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow and longing, this collection is a resounding confirmation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's prodigious storytelling powers.

I’m generally wary of short stories. It takes a significant amount of skill to create a compelling story with enough detail to engage the reader and enough resolution to prevent a sense of frustration when the story ends.

The Thing Around Your Neck contains 12 previously published short stories by award winning Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was quickly drawn into the well-crafted stories and found myself eager to begin another as the last ended. I was amazed at how adeptly Adichie portrayed her central characters, inviting readers to identify with them but also presenting them as flawed and complex individuals.

The 12 stories are styled as vignettes, allowing the reader to briefly walk alongside the central character and experience their life, then drift away as the storyline draws to a resolution of some kind. The stories never presented as having a concrete conclusion however, leaving me with the feeling that the story continued on and that it was my voyeuristic involvement that came to an end.

My personal favourite from the collection, or perhaps I should more accurately describe it as the story that impacted me the most, is “The Headstrong Historian”, the story of a Nigerian mother who allows her son to attend a white man church school so that he will learn English and better protect the heritage of his father, only to have her son turn his back on his African ancestry and culture.

I also particularly enjoyed the story “Jumping Monkey Hill”, a snapshot of a small group of writers at a writing seminar in Nigeria, which I found to be an insightful look at the way we interpret and regard the writing of others as well as generally entertaining.

The subject matter of the stories was at times quite confronting, particularly those that portrayed social and political unrest in Nigeria. This makes it difficult to describe this book as “enjoyable”, however it is certainly extremely well executed and very compelling reading.

I have not read either of Adichie’s previous books, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, but will certainly be looking for them in the future.

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