Just as often as I enjoy an in-depth, close-reading review of a book, I enjoy a short-and-to-the-damn-point blurb that gets me informed on the quick. Flash reviews are the quick-and-dirties, the drive-through reviews. I’ve read a bucket full of wonderful things already this year, so let’s order some fries and talk about them.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013)
Wow. Americanah is an addictive read—I would have to read it again to explain to you what Adichie does to make it so because I was too busy riding the plot to notice the cogs making it turn—but I felt compelled to return to the book in every free second I had until I had finished its 500-some pages. I preferred Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who moves to America to study and work before returning to her home town to work for a magazine, to Obinze, her high school sweet heart who is denied an American visa and experiences some of the worst of illegal immigrant life attempting to emigrate to England, but both narrators were so well-done, so real, that I would have believed you if you had told me that this was a biography.
The love story was sweet, sad, and touching. The discussions of race and racism in America were fucking wonderful—funny, complex, well-written, multi-faceted. I spent 23 years of my life in America, but I never was able to see it like this—priveleged, white, middle class citizen that I am there. On top of that, I knew almost nothing about Nigeria beforehand, and the sections of the book that took place there offered a vivid window onto life there that I really enjoyed.
Americanah wasn’t a book that made me go “wow! kablamo! mind melt!”, but it was a really, really good book. It’s the kind of book you should read even if you don’t want to (I didn’t, but it was a present) because it is likely to surprise you and carry you off in spite of yourself.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
You think this is going to be a mystery about a murdered dog. You are wrong. There is a mystery, but it has more to do with the secrets the narrator’s dysfuctional family has been keeping from him, and it is so fluidly told, almost as an after thought, amidst the details that obsess the brain of our narrator, a young man with Asperger’s syndrome.
Curious Incident is a short book, one that can be read in an afternoon. As our narrator tells us about prime numbers, about counting cars, about how he responds to certain colors, and what he thinks about clouds, it becomes easy to sympathize, to find the territory inside of his head more logical, easier to empathize with, than the rest of the novel’s characters. The story is sad, but sneakily so. It is also happy, almost heart-breakingly happy. It is the kind of book you can safely recommend to just about anyone, and be relatively sure they are going to like it.
The same friend who gave me Americanah gave me Curious Incident as well. Good taste, eh?
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Thank you book club, for getting me to read this book. Oyeyemi is know for being pretty fucking awesome, and all the book blogs are right. Boy, Snow, Bird is awesome, perhaps more magical realist than fantastic. Oyeyemi’s writing is awesome. High quality. Thematically interesting. Good flow. Good characterization. All of it.
It just so happens that Boy, Snow, Bird is also a lot like my favorite read of 2014: Catherynne Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White. Both are retellings of the Snow White story, though very differently so, and both tackle sexism and abuse. Granted Oyeyemi isn’t poetic in the same way that Valente is, and you all know how much I love Valente’s writing. Still, both are worth a read, maybe even one after another.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?