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The person you are at 15 is not - thankfully - the person you are at 30. The time in-between can be a period of great exploration and change, especially for those who move abroad and then attempt to return “home.”
This fleeting, often romantic notion of “home” is just one of many themes in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's brilliant new novel, “Americanah.” It's the 1990s and Ifemelu and Obinze, intellectual teenagers with big dreams, fall in love in Lagos. However, due to frequent lecture strikes and the uncertainty of the military dictatorship, they know they need to go abroad in order “to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness.”
By leaving - Ifemelu to America, Obinze to London - and attempting to make a new home, both struggle to be accepted, heard and loved. Ifemelu confronts the notion of race for the first time, eventually writing a successful blog detailing her experiences. Obinze struggles to eke out a living in England and returns to Nigeria, becoming a success in the real estate business. All the while both wonder: What would happen if we saw each other again?
While Adichie provides an exciting and emotional plot, she also holds nothing back regarding the personal struggles, questions and failings of her characters, making for an emotionally-engaging and intellectually-stimulating read. When Obinze reflects on his newfound success, “It brought to him a disorienting strangeness, because his mind had not changed at the same pace as his life, and he felt a hollow space between himself and the person he was supposed to be.”
These feelings of uncertainty are common for Adichie's characters, providing great moments of reflection about race, economics, love and aging. In this way Adichie shows that the road home is never easy, and what changes most along the journey - for better or for worse - is us.