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  • Writer's pictureNia Forrester

'Maame' by Jessica George

I loved this book. Sometimes books come at the right time, and this one did for me. But I'm not sure there would have been a wrong time. It was all the things: family drama, light romance, coming-of-age, women's fiction, friendship fiction, diasporic fiction, humorous, current ... just everything I was looking for right now. Maddie Wright is the person in her family who takes care of everything and everyone except herself. Her father has Parkinson's and she lives alone with him while her brother pursues his entertainment career and her mother travels between London and Ghana, where her parents are originally from. Though she has hopes and dreams for herself, Maddie feels strongly that she needs to be the one to hold down the homefront, since no one else seems inclined to do it. Then her chronically absent mother announces that she is returning from Ghana for a year, so she can take over the care of her husband, and she urges Maddie to move out and make a life for herself. Consulting Google message boards, as Maddie does for most of her decisions, Maddie decides to make some serious changes and become the kind of person she never had the space to become before. She wants to date and lose her virginity, smoke, drink, and take her career in publishing more seriously. And to Maddie's surprise--and the persistent soundtrack of her self-doubt--a handsome suitor presents himself, as does a new apartment with flatmates who could become friends, and the possibility of an unanticipated but exciting development in her career. But even as she embarks on what seems to be a new life, Maddie is still carrying a lot of baggage from the old one. And eventually, it all catches up with her, forcing her to reckon with who she is in her family, and in the new world and life she is building for herself. With the light touch and tone of a rom-com, Jessica George managed to meaningfully address some very heavy subjects-depression, chronic illness, cultural identity, race, sexual discovery ... like I said, all the things. This didn't read like a debut novel; it read like the work of someone adept at giving readers just enough to understand where the characters are and what they feel without belaboring the pivotal moments in the fear that we won't recognize just how pivotal they are. The dialogue was clever and snappy without being trite, and the main character, Maddie, nicknamed Maame ("Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman."), endearing and relatable. The significance of the title is revealed in the novel, and becomes key to helping us understand who Maddie is in her family when we meet her, and who we have the delightful experience of watching her become. A great read! Thank you NetGalley! Audiobook note: I listened and read. Both experiences were equally positive. The narrator is exceptional. I could almost believe she is Maddie.

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

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