A good story is like a good meal. One anticipates a good story the way a person anticipates a meal prepared by a master chef. You know immediately you are about to eat something wonderful, not only does it fill you up, it engages all your senses. The aroma taunts you leaves you gasping for breath and wanting more like Oliver Twist…. So, if storytellers are cooks, then Ben Okri, Mabel Segun, Cyprian Ekwensi and especially Chinua Achebe are just some of its master chefs…. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, formerly a sous-chef can now be added to that list with the release of The Thing Around Your Neck….
Since the release of Half of a Yellow Sun in 2007, many have speculated on what Ngozi will do next. She has decided to go back to the basics…. Short Fiction…. Ngozi is popularly known for her novels “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Purple Hibiscus”, but what people don’t know is that she started out writing short stories for which she has won a number of prizes. There is something about the way Ngozi tells her stories that captivates you and leaves you asking for more.
The Thing Around Your Neck is a compilation of twelve (12) short stories. Like in her previous works, Ngozi focuses on the trials and ordeals of Nigerian Women. One of Ngozi’s best gifts is her skill in the way she sketches her characters. There is something surreal about the way she does it. She draws you into identifying with her characters and recognizing them as flawed and multifaceted individuals. Like in her previous novels, the stories feature strong female characters or some seemingly weak and timid who build up strength over the course of the stories…. S-I-R, Strong Independent & Relevant.
Space will not permit me to delve into what I consider to be a literary classic…. Something similar to the works of Dickens, Twain, Soyinka, Morrison…. Ngozi explores themes familiar to us…. Extramarital affairs, religious and political violence, culture shock experienced by first time visitors to a foreign country where everything works….
In “A Private Experience,” a medical student takes cover from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to face the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman cracks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. In “Imitation”, a young wife finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And in “The Thing Around Your Neck”; 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 reexamine them. “On Monday of Last Week” she tells the story of a university-educated woman, who finds herself in America again working as an “omo odo” in order to make ends meet. These and other stories in the collection depict Ngozi threading in the footsteps of Soyinka and Achebe in using their talents as social and political commentators.
Ngozi bridges the cultural divide between Nigeria and the United States and tries to reconcile them without coming across as a BBC documentary on the ills of Nigeria. Each story offers a degree of closure but still leave multiple possibilities regarding the continuation of the stories.
I’ll say i enjoyed reading this book and would read it again and again.
You can get this book at the Glendora Bookshop@ Falomo (Ikoyi) for N1500…. You can follow me on twitter @dhame_lawal for updates about this blog.