I think we had an outstanding discussion on a book that will most likely show up college recommended reading lists for years to come, and those classes will give the book more then 90 minutes of their time.
The book at its basest level was about racism. We felt that Adiche clearly had race in her mind when she started to write. The characters, and there were many - almost too many - brought faces and feelings to the experience. She wrote that race is not about biology, it's about sociology. We saw racial prejudice in Nigeria, the UK and the US and we grew to care about the characters. Maureen said that she recently read a piece saying that fiction is what you read to feel the experience. Snobbish readers who say they only read nonfiction miss out.
We liked Obinze and felt he was a kind man. None of us understood why Ifem (saving vowels and misspellings) broke all ties with him over the event with the tennis coach. Someone said that she was self-sabotaging. Mary reminded us that she was depressed, whether she wanted to call it that or not. She had run out of money and simply could not get a job. It's easy to be critical but her circumstances were extraordinary. I had a hard time liking her after she broke up with both Blaine and Curt, but then later wanted to keep them on the string. Angela said she felt the same.
We were fortunate that both Peggy and Mary have experiences in Africa and helped us see the circumstances more clearly. Mary talked about how important education was and how families would invest everything to make sure their children had good schooling. Peggy said it's caste system, much like India. The landlord didn't want to rent to Ifem because she was Igbo and her hair wrapper's boyfriend wouldn't marry her because she was Igbo. Adiche wrote that lighter skinned Nigerians had better opportunities.
Angela both said they learned a lot from the book. She admitted that she hadn't necessarily liked it but was glad she had read it, though she found Ifem spoiled. Kareen said she hadn't finished it - wasn't sure she would. Joanne appreciated seeing a different side of Nigerian culture other than the home of the "scam." Peggy said that she felt that the tone was one of loneliness and discontent.
We talked a lot about Ifem's blog. Mary said that if you flipped through it you'd get a nice synthesis of the book and it's intended message, that of a non-American Black on race. It's impossible to cover all the points of this nearly 600-page book here, but Adiche touched on many: the self-satisfied smug rich white Americans and their favorite African charities, what it's like to have a President who looks like you, the issues Black women have with hair styles, Whites who pretend to not notice skin color, the difficultly of a minority teen to fit in, and well - you know.
The conclusion was wide open. Diana said - you just don't know. And we don't. Will Ifem sabotage the relationship like others in her past, destroying a family in the process, or is this the thing that she's been missing and trying to get back all along? We'll never know.
Our March meeting was the last before Carolyn moved away so I took pictures. I'd like to periodically do this so can have a record of our group. We've been together for a long time.