In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And 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. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.
Note: I gave this 4 stars at first but while writing this review, I realized how amazing this book is so I bumped it to a 5!
There’s something in Adichie’s writing style that always grabs my attention. Excluding this book, the only work I read by her was We Should All Be Feminists and that too provoked the same emotions I felt reading this novel. Although not all the short stories were memorable, a good amount of them made it to my top favorite short story list of all time. While reading, I kept thinking “Wow, this could easily have been a full length novel” and “Wait, this story is over no please I want more!”
I am not a short story reader and usually think nothing of them but with Adichie, she made me care about these characters she fabricated in the matter of 20 pages. She made me root for them. She made me think about important issues including marriage, religion, family and cultural alienation, topics I have never gave much thought about. This work was just phenomenal. All stories had amazing promise, but I will highlight some of my favorites.
The Arrangers of Marriage
A Nigerian woman migrates to America after getting tangled in an arranged marriage with an “American obsessed” doctor. This short story explores the themes of estrangement in one’s culture and conforming to american naturalistic ideals. Our main character faces the challenges of converting all of the habits and traditions that she’s accustomed to into American culture. I definitely loved this short story because I’m always interested in the arguments on whether we should be promoting and discouraging assimilation (though, I’m against it because we should be celebrating other cultures but that’s just my two cents).
This story explores the themes of religion. Two Nigerian people come together when they find out about a deadly plane crash in Nigeria that may or may not had a loved one on board. Both characters contrast one another, one who seeks faith while the other questions it. As a person who has struggled with coming into terms with my own religion, this is a must read!
A haunting look at the functionalities of relationships. A Nigerian woman living in America finds out that her husband has a girlfriend in their home country. I loved the imitation part of it because it was so powerful and indelible. The character, Nkem, was insecure but I fell absolutely in love with her. Out of all the short stories, this ending is what packed the right punch for me. Another story that I wished was a full length novel.
Jumping Monkey Hill
This one..oh yes. The short story expresses the biases of men possess when it comes to women writing a story and confers on the human experience in women’s writing. It’s relevant, more than ever. I loved all the multicultural backgrounds, I loved the messages that Adichie conveys. Book reviewer, writers, men, women, people of color need to read this.
A Private Experience
Two disparate women hide in a store during an abrupt religious riot on the streets. The story relies on the motif of contrast: One woman is Igbo Christian, while the other is Hausa Muslim. One studies medicine, the other is a trader.Chaos flutters outside, while calmness floats within. It’s a striking story of two opposites coming together, in their own little private experience.
These are only 5 out of the 12 captivating stories that Adichie craftily assembles. All of them exposes something that will impinge you, like it impinged me.
Adichie is slowly becoming one of my favorite authors. I praise her for sharing her stories and philosophies about cultural formalities, social justices, different relationships and feminism. The stories she tells sometimes makes me uncomfortable which is a good thing (be more comfortable being uncomfortable) The stories makes me reflect on my own experiences and America today.
Anyone with a beating heart should read The Thing Around Your Neck.