Word count: 151,960 words
Expected reading time: 10h+ (250 words/minute)
Diversity: the protagonists and central characters are Nigerian, some of the side characters are also African-American
Locations: mostly Nigeria and USA, also the UK
In a nutshell: The book follows Ifemlu’s youth and last thirteen years, after she had moved to the US, in flashbacks and continues into the present, where she moves back to Nigeria.
Memorable Quote: “Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”
What you’ll get:
- a protagonist who is flawed but relatable
- a love story that spans decades
- reflections of role models and relationships as they grow as well as when they fall apart
- thorough examination of culture, society and race
- the ups and downs of expat life and returning home
Verdict: fascinating look through the eyes of an immigrant
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Reader’s Perspective: Having experience as an expat myself, I felt this book described the nuances of the immigrant experience amazingly well. It captures all these little moments of confusion as you first move to a new country. It was also interesting to see the reverse culture shock Ifem experiences, when she moves back to Nigeria. What kept me reading, however, was also the anticipation of Ifem and Obinze meeting again.
Writer’s Perspective: I was surprised the book continued when the flashbacks caught up to the present. I would have left an open end, where the reader has to piece together by themselves what will happen once Ifemelu returns to Nigeria. But including the reverse culture shock of returning home after 13 years was just as interesting to read as the culture shock of moving to a new country in the early parts of the book, bringing the narrative full circle.
I was also fascinated by the characters. At times I was grumbling at the screen (I read it as an ebook) about why characters would make certain decisions, even if they knew it would probably make them unhappy. Normally, this would perhaps make me feel bored but with this novel, I couldn’t fault the characters for their decisions and very human mistakes. If anything, it made them even more compelling and exactly that is what makes this book such a master class in writing characters which are truly human, flaws included.
Bonus Fun Fact: The blog Ifemelu writes during her time in the US actually has a few entries when you go to the website.
About the reviewer: Julia is a published writer of novels and short stories. Her newest release is The Witch’s Hut, a fantasy novella about a blacksmith and a witch, who are determined to fight for their love.
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