When we were assigned “The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for my book club’s June read, I was a bit hesitant. I am not one to read short stories. I should have known better. Having read, Adichie’s “Americanah” I should have known her short stories would hold as much weight, if not more.
I listened to the audiobook on my way to and from New Jersey and I was engaged the whole time, laughing, crying and cursing under my breath when it called for it. Adichie has a way of describing characters that you can vividly see and feel what they are feeling.
As with Americanah, most of Adichie’s short stories have the same theme of culture and society. What it means to be of a certain culture, what happens when two culture’s collide, etc.
Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as “one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years” (Baltimore Sun), with “prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes” (The Boston Globe); The Washington Post called her “the twenty-first-century daughter of Chinua Achebe.” Her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun became an instant classic upon its publication three years later, once again putting her tremendous gifts – graceful storytelling, knowing compassion, and fierce insight into her characters’ hearts – on display. Now, in her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.
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.
This book will stay with you and make you reflect on everything you thought you knew. I wish I wrote down how I was feeling immediately after reading this book but I didn’t. So I don’t want to ruin this review with attempts to describe that emotional impact. I would just say, it’s definitely worth a read.