Review: Maame, by Jessica George
Note: I received a review copy of this from the wonderful NetGalley. Still and all, the opinions here are mine, and influenced only by my years of reading.
With one small caveat, I loved Maame, Jessica George’s debut novel (and I look forward to seeing a lot more of her work).
To get the small caveat out of the way, I have been noticing a trend among younger writers that I dislike very much. Now, this may just be because I’m a tail-end Boomer, but it still bothers me. When faced with problems that most adults face in life, many younger writers have other protagonists turn to the hive mind of the “Interwebs” or they have the protagonists discuss the issue with everyone except the other person(s) involved. To me, this often seems like a retreat from actually tackling the problem, whatever it is, and either failing or succeeding but growing either way. Maddie does it here a lot, which takes away (for me, anyway) from the idea that Maddie is an actual adult.
Other than that, this is a lovely book. Maddie’s turn as caretaker for her dad, and actual truly responsible caretaker for her widely scattered family strikes true (my sister and I have each had to assume that role in real life). The representations of how much of her life has been eaten by this role, and by her family’s expectations that she will always fill these set, specific roles is heart-breaking. Maddie’s saving grace, however, is that she really is a survivor, with the core of steel she does not see in herself but recognizes in her mother and aunt. She spends the time we are with here growing — sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly — with great hopes that things will turn out for the best, even while she acknowledges the possibility they won’t. It’s also interesting to see how the values she has learned in her country of birth mix and blend with the Ghanaian values her parents spent a great deal of time installing, and where those mixed values both propel her forward and hold her back.
Despite the above caveat, I think you will enjoy spending time with Maddie, her family, and the other people in her life. The writing is excellent, which is always a plus for me.