Honestly, I enjoyed a lot of this book but not everything. It makes a statement about what it means to emigrate to the US and elaborates on so many of the little things that aren’t always obvious. It shows the dream and a few ways that people try to make it a reality. It also doesn’t pull any punches.
I know it’s part of making a good book that’s worth being read, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy that part of it. As a book about the dream of becoming American and what it can cost, this is great. From a feminist perspective it’s important for the way the decisions of the women characters are informed by the roles they play. There is Neni, who is married to Jende and was brought to the US by him, and there is Cindy, who is the matriarch of the family he works for. Both women find themselves in positions to make sacrifices instead of compromises. This may be reality but it’s still disappointing. It keeps authenticity but it is among the reasons this is the kind of book that is read for understanding other experiences more than simple enjoyment. Still, there are definitely some fun moments, such as the way Jende decides to handle the little comments people make after learning he’s from Cameroon.
The ensemble of characters as a whole is rather amazing. Mbue brings them to life in less than ideal circumstances but the way respect is earned and lost is a part of what drives the story as is the way each character responds to stress. She does an exceptional job of making every character sympathetic, even with some considerable flaws and bad moments.It had a melancholy end, though, which could be happy for some.
I would definitely recommend it to other feminists, particularly for perspective for those learning about other aspects of life that intersect with being a woman.
I borrowed the book from the library but it is also available for purchase from several vendors world-wide. Click on the cover image to be redirected to Booklikes or add to Goodreads for later. This was my selection for Read Harder’s task 13, an Oprah Book Club book.