A delightful collection of twelve short stories, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck was a sweet treat for my burnt out on reading self. Hi guys! It’s been awhile, eh? I’ve been reading while riding, but just not writing about this. This book, however, was amazing enough to get me to break out of my hiatus. In stories that spanned from Nigeria to the States, Adichie has firmly implanted herself in my heart as one of my favorite authors. She writes using plain language, in lush ways. I’m normally not one for short stories, but this collection is everything to me!
My personal favorites were “Imitation”, “On Monday of Last Week”, “Jumping Monkey Hill”, “The Thing Around Your Neck”, and “Tomorrow Is Too Far”. Now here is where I am perfectly honest, if you asked me to name the protagonist of all of the above stories, I couldn’t tell you. This might be the most xenophobic thing I’ve ever said in this space, but all of those names tended to run into one. The plot of the stories however were not singular. Each was wrapped in intense emotion that (at some points) made me feel uncomfortable.
In “Imitation”, we meet a woman who has been moved to the US by her husband to live a lavish life. she maintains the household, raising their children. He, however, only visits twice a year due to his work. He spends the majority of his time in their native Nigeria where the woman subsequently learns that he has been keeping his other woman in their house. “On Monday of Last Week” is about a recently emigrated Nigerian woman who begins work as a nanny to a biracial family. The woman finds herself enamored with the mother who, despite being a stay-at-home mom in name (she’s an artist) needs supplemental care for her child. “Jumping Monkey Hill” is the story of a writer at a retreat with authors from all over Africa have convened to speak about their writing. This story’s protagonist writes a tale with a somewhat predictable plot twist at the end.
The titular story of the collection “The Thing Around Your Neck” is the one that made me most uncomfortable. The protagonist in this tale gets a Visa to the US and is sent to live with an “uncle”. Said uncle (truly a family friend) molests her within days of her arrival so she strikes out on her own. The young woman soon finds work in a diner and she supplements her learning with lots of reading. While working in the diner, she is approached by a young White man who has taken an interest in her. The rest of the story deals with them navigating through a relationship skewed by different world views. In “Tomorrow Is Too Far” is about two siblings (& a cousin) who were American Born Nigerians and spend the summers with their Grandmama in Naija. One summer the brother of the sibling duo passes mysteriously and the truth of that summer is revealed through the course of the story.
As I said above, I absolutely LOVED this collection. It is a perfect round out to my top five* favorite collections of short stories.
*The other 4 are Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, Interpreter of Maladies, Unaccustomed Earth, and Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.
OOH! I just noticed that this is my 200th post! So I’m offering a treat! Comment below with your favorite collection of short stories & I’ll enter you into a raffle to win a copy of this book! : )