Thursday, April 6, 2023

Maame by Jessica George

Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.

t’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.

When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it's not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils—and rewards—of putting her heart on the line.

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Jessica George's Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.

Paperback, 312 pages
Published January 31, 2023
by St. Martin's Press
3.5/5 stars

I was drawn to this book due to the buzz on social media and its popularity among online reading groups. It also happens to be the author's debut work. I decided to take it with me on a recent vacation and opted for a hybrid reading experience, alternating between the physical book and the audiobook version. The audiobook, read by Heather Agyepong, was just over 10 hours long and she did an excellent job bringing the story to life.

The protagonist, Maddie, is a 25-year-old woman living in London who juggles a full-time job with being the primary caregiver for her father. The emotional toll of her responsibilities at home and the challenges she faces at work take a toll on her. When her mother returns to town, Maddie seizes the opportunity to move out and live independently for the first time in her life. What follows is a journey of self-discovery for Maddie as she navigates her mental health issues, career, dating, and her relationships with her family.

I found the audiobook more enjoyable than the physical book, as the reader's accent reinforced Maddie's Ghanaian roots. The story touches on racial issues, mental health, and family dynamics, all wrapped up in Maddie's personal journey. While I may not give it the five-star rating that many others have, I did find it entertaining and thought-provoking.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge, #24.

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