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The Thing Around Your Neck

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers a dozen short stories about Nigerians caught in the pull between Nigeria and the West.

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Oh, the deep, still sadness of the characters in The Thing Around Your Neck! Whether living in Africa or the United States, the Nigerians in this powerful, deftly assembled short story collection seem to float in a strange and lonely form of exile. Suburban America cannot truly nurture them, but, then again, neither can their homeland.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a young Nigerian writer who sprang into fame with her two earlier novels “Purple Hibiscus” (2003) and “Half of a Yellow Sun” (2006). Readers who enjoyed these examinations of life in Nigeria already know Adichie’s gifts as a storyteller, all of which are on display in the dozen stories gathered together in “The Thing Around Your Neck.”

The backgrounds of her characters in this collection may initially seem exotic to Western readers. And yet the love, justice, and understanding they seek are so fundamental and familiar that there are few readers of any background who won’t recognize acres – perhaps even miles – of common ground. Here, Adichie’s characters are as likely to inhabit Hartford or Princeton as they are Nsukka or Lagos. Many either are academics or have some ties to a campus (reflecting Adiche’s own experience as the daughter of a Nigerian professor and university registrar.)

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