Posted on | December 24, 2011 | 2 Comments
Having previous read both, Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, I was quite happy when I received this as a Christmas present last year. The only concern I had was, my track record with collections of short stories – for the most part, I’m not a fan. “For the most part” being the key phrase.
This collection mainly focuses on African immigrants in America, and the lives they live, the experiences they succumb to – by virtue of their past. Or their present. Slightly reminiscent of say, The Joy Luck Club or The Namesake. Barring a couple of stories, this isn’t really brand new territory, but Adichie’s writing and story-telling continues to impress. That said, my biggest complaint with short stories, i.e. the lack of closure, still holds. And, as a reader, one’s left craving more – more about the characters, and more about what happened next.
The Arrangers of Marriage is one such story. We don’t get much insight into the characters, or what makes them click. So, when the story ends, there’s a sense of incompleteness; of wanting more, because the motives of the narrator hasn’t really been touched on. Or, what makes her click.
The two stories, Jumping Monkey Hill and the title story both tick off the feminist criteria. Jumping Monkey Hill is based in an African writer’s camp in Cape Town, where a group of people are meant to write a short story under the direction of a Brit whose passionate about African literature. Sexism and racism are both rampant in the story, as it hits home the underlying point: why do we always say nothing?
In The Thing Around Your Neck, a young girl goes to live in America with her uncle, after winning the Green Card lottery. When her uncle makes a pass at her, she runs away, and tries to make a life for herself.
Cell One, the opening story, was probably the most powerful of them all. In an age where the cult-culture is so prevalent, we meet a rich family, whose only son belongs to a cult indulging in debauchery and hedonism, and has been imprisoned for breaking and entering. In prison, when the teenager speaks up against the mistreatment of an older gentleman, he is beaten and thrown into the infamous Cell One. Eventually, unsurprisingly, he is released, but forever changed.
The other stories, some based in Nigeria during riots and wars, and some on immigrants in America are beautifully written. However, they are all within what is expected, and don’t really astonish or surprise… or wow. The raw emotions and startling vivid descriptions that made Half of a Yellow Sun so gripping are amiss, which is unfortunate. None of the stories give us a new perspective into Africa, or a new insight into America. Under different constructs, all the stories have been told before. And it’s that which left me feeling as though there was more to be desired from this collection.