Americanah is the story of Nigerian teenagers, Ifemelu and Obinze, young, in love and who have a plan. Ifemelu has a visa to join her aunt and cousin in America, while Obinze is finishing up his degree and will meet her there later. Until life happens and things don’t turn out how they planned and we watch as their lives diverge growing further and further away from each other. Years later reunite back in Lagos and are faced with a difficult decision.
I was surprised at just how easy to read Americanah was – Adichie’s prose is silken and inspires reflection. I loved both of our protagonists: the prickly and independent Ifemelu who won’t take any of your shit and stead-fast and introspective Obinze, the voice of reason and calm. I enjoyed getting to know them in all of their highs and lows, quirks and flaws and found them more than enough to keep my interest over the five hundred pages. The novel switches characters and time often and is set into parts that vary greatly in length. Adichie seems to meander along telling several stories but in a natural and flown way that the reader is swept along for the ride.
The plot, I found, was really secondary to the big themes that Adichie is focusing on. Race and immigration are such strong and relevant themes that Adichie manages to weave many lessons into this novel and to perfectly capture the bewildering experience that is moving to a western country as an often unwanted burden in the eyes of those already living there. It really does provide an important insight into what it is to be a person of colour living in a foreign country. A perspective that so many of us need to learn because many of us are woefully ignorant. I know I learnt much from Adichie’s words and became, hopefully, a little less ignorant.
Americanah is a story of life and the harsh realities that we must face. Some justified, others not. This is told with no indulgence or sugar-coating, although, Adichie’s prose is a thing of beauty and if you have not acquainted yourself with her work I suggest doing so. I give Americanah four planes bearing Ifemelu and Obinze away form their home and each other.