Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Thing Around Your Neck-part 3 (Book Review)

Finally here are the last 4 stories in this book, I decided to write 4 stories per post and reviewed the other eight stories in part 1 and part 2 .Three months and 4 other books later, It’s safe to say I could score maybe 70% if someone examined me on the stories in this book because it has taken me so long to write the reviews so each time, I had to quickly read through the stories which had me thinking am I wasting time in quadrant four activities(not important, not urgent activities) how am I going to be more effective and all that, anyone who has read The 7 habits of highly effective people? It is a really good book, I am about to finish it and I am already feeling like I am highly effective (ha ha ha) or atleast when I start doing activities, I think; In which quadrant is it or when I am passing judgement on people/situations, I think am I using my personal experiences and not trying to understand the situation from this other person's point of view this is to say read it if you are looking to be a better person and haven’t already.

Writing book reviews is not my thing I realize, therefore I wouldn’t write reviews to each of the books I read because that would be crazy to say the least but once in a while I would, like I totally have to tell how EPIC The Year of Yes is and the Obama stories from Auma Obama’s And then life happens and Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father.

Here goes stories 9-12 and this is one long post hoping you, reading this have like ten minutes to spare. I promise it will be worth your time :-) :-).


Ukamaka dished out some stew beside the already warmed rice on Chinedu’s plate. ‘’ If God prefers some people to others, it doesn’t make sense that it will be Udenna who will be spared. Udenna could not have been the nicest or kindest person who was booked on that flight she said. 
‘’You can’t use human reasoning for God, God’s ways are not our ways’’. Chinedu held up the fork she had placed on his plate. ‘’Please give me a spoon’’.

Shivering tells the story about God’s ways of solving problems/issues that people usually won’t think of. Udenna and Chinedu live in the same building and have never spoken to each other, they are both Nigerians and the news of a plane crash in Nigeria is what brings Chinedu to Ukamaka’s place so that they can pray about it. Ukamaka knows someone who might have been on that plane so she is really worried and Chinedu prays with her and for their country because the story says that the government has really destroyed their country

‘’God has to take control of Nigeria’’, he went on. ‘’They said that a civilian government would be better than the military ones, but look at what Obasanjo is doing. He has seriously destroyed our country.’’

The person who Ukamaka knows who might have been on the flight is her ex-boyfriend Udenna. Who she is still in-love with but he decided they can’t be together anymore. When I read the story I thought Udenna is typically/the stereo-type of the 'Kenyan middle-class peeps'.

'Udenna never said ‘I love you’ to me because he thought it was a cliché. Once I told him I was sorry he felt bad about something and he started shouting and said I should not use an expression like ‘I’m sorry you feel that way ‘ because it was unoriginal’. He used to make me feel that nothing I said was witty enough or sarcastic enough or smart enough. He was always struggling to be different, even when it didn’t matter. It was as if he was performing his life instead of living his life.'

Ukamaka teaches at Princenton and she always thought that Chinedu was doing his doctoral studies in Chemistry and that’s why they never met on campus as she is a lecturer in literature, but as she will realize he was a construction worker and was hiding in Princeton because his papers had expired and if the authorities found him they were sure going to deport him.

Here comes the ‘God’s ways are not our ways’ part both Chinedu and Ukamaka in their teens had a crush on Burkina Faso’s president Thomas Sankara which means they basically have the same taste in men, incase you are wondering why this is important Chinedu is gay!!!(I know even me I was shocked).So newly single Udenna and Chinedu agreed to find a solution that will make all his papers related problems go and if you know Chimamanda as well as I know her although this is not said in the story, these two people agreed to a fake marriage.

Phrases I liked from this story

When she stopped at Wild Oats, where she and Udenna had bought organic vegetables, Chinedu Shook his head in wonder because he did not understand why anybody would pay more money for the same vegetables just because they had been grown without chemicals. He was examining the grains displayed in large plastic dispensers while she selected broccoli and put it in a bag. Chemical-free this, chemical free that. People are wasting money for nothing. Aren’t the medicines the take to stay alive chemicals, too?’’

I think I’ll get your favorite, sushi, instead of a sandwich,’’ she said, her tone teasing. She had once asked if he liked sushi and he said,’’ God forbid. I am an African man. I eat only cooked food’’. She added, ‘’ You really should try sushi sometime. How can you live in Princeton and not eat sashimi?

He leaned close.’’You know,I had a crush on Thomas Sankara, too’’.
‘’No!’’ Laughter was bubbling up in her chest.
I didn’t even know that there was a country called Burkina Faso in West Africa until my teacher in secondary school talked about him and brought in a picture. I will never forget how crazy in love I fell with a newspaper photograph.’’ 
‘’Don’t tell me Abidemi sort of looks like him’’.
‘’Actually he does.’’
‘’At first they stifled their laughter and then they let it out, joyously leaning against each other, while next to them, the woman holding the baby watched.

The arrangers of marriage.

They did not warn you about things like this when they arranged your marriage. No mention of offensive snoring, no mention of houses that turned out to be furniture-challenged flats. The arrangers of marriage only told you that doctors made a lot of money in America. They did not add that before doctors started to make a lot of money, they had to do an internship and a residency program, which my new husband had not completed.’

The arrangers of marriage tells the story of Chinaza whose family arranged for her to be married to a Nigerian man who lived and worked as a doctor in America. They all thought how lucky she was;

'What have we not done for you? We raise you as our own and then we find you an ezigbo di! A doctor in America! It’s like we won a lottery for you!’’ Aunty Ada said.

Only for her to go start living with him to find out how mistaken she was and that this new husband of hers was so brainwashed and thought everything African so wrong that he had taken on two English names, spoke only English at home and even asked her to stop cooking coconut rice, bought her a cook-book titled Good housekeeping all-American cook book and worse (well according to me) forced her to start taking tea without sugar and milk because supposedly this what American’s do.

'Look at the people who shop here; they are the ones who immigrate and continue to act as if they are back in their countries.’’ He gestured dismissively, toward a woman and her two children, who were speaking Spanish. ‘’They will never move forward unless they adapt to America. They will always be doomed to supermarkets like this.’’

The final straw in this marriage breaks when he tells her that before he married her, he had been married to an American woman for purposes of sorting out his papers and now this woman on finding out that he had gotten married has refused to sign the divorce papers. Chinaza gets really sad and moves out but comes back after a while when she realizes she cannot explain to her people why she wants to leave this perfect husband and she decides she will stay and get her papers and make her own living in this so called land of opportunities.

Phrases I liked from this story.

You never say his name, you never say Dave. Is that a cultural thing?’’.
‘’No.’’ I looked down at the table mat made with waterproof fabric. I wanted to say that it was because I didn’t know his name, because I didn’t know him.

You left your husband? Aunty Ada would shriek. Are you mad? Does one throw away a guinea fowl’s egg? Do you know how many women would offer both eyes for a doctor in America? For any husband at all?”.  (This because I laughed so much when I first read it, because I know so many people in real life who can/have said things along these lines and me-certified marriage advisor has said something like this a number of times when someone tells me the way they are considering becoming a single mum because their husband has become intolerable).

Tomorrow is too far

‘It was the summer you asked Grandmama why Nonso sipped first even though Dozie was thirteen, a year older than Nonso, and Grandmama said Nonso was her son’s only son, the one who would carry on the Nnaibuisi name,while Dozie was only a nwadiana,her daughter’s son.It was the summer you found the molt of a snake in the lawn,unbroken and sheer like see-through stockings, and Grandmama told you the snake was called the echi eteka, ‘’Tomorrow is too far’’. One bite and it’s over in ten minutes. This is the summer you knew that something had to happen to Nonso so that you could survive. Even at ten you knew that some people can take up too much space by simply being, that by existing, some people can stifle others.’

This story I did not like at all. It’s about two siblings a boy and a girl. The parents and their grandmother have a clear preference for the boy and do not hide this in any-way from the girl and because of this and her insecurities she decided to scare her brother so that he falls of a tree so that he is hurt and maybe maimed but he fell off and died!.

'The branches were weak, and Nonso was heavy. Heavy from all the food Grandmama made him eat. Eat a little more, she would say often. Who do you think I made it for? As though you were not there. 

Your mother brought Nonso up, finally three months after his funeral, when she told you about the divorce,she said that the divorce was not about Nonso,that she and your father had long been growing apart.Then your mother asked how did Nonso die?.You still wonder how those words tumbled out of your mouth.You still do not recognize the clear-eyed child that you were.Maybe it was because of the way she had said the divorce was not about Nonso-as though Nonso was the only one capable of being a reason,as though you were not in the running.

I think the moral in this story is even siblings can be rivals so love all your children equally.I always thought this is a given based on the parents I know because they all swear they love their kids equally but just in-case this story has some truth in it do not show more love/preferential treatment for one child over the others.

The headstrong historian

‘It was Grace who, as one of the few women at the university college of Ibadan in 1950, would change her degree from chemistry to history after she heard, while drinking tea at the home of a friend, the story of Mr.Gboyega. The eminent Mr.Gboyega, a chocolate skinned Nigerian, educated in London, distinguished expert on the history of the British Empire, had resigned in disgust when the West African Examinations Council began talking of adding African history to the curriculum because he was appalled that African history would even be considered a subject.’

I really really, did I say really liked this story. It starts in the past far away in the past when people still walked bare-chested, before the missionaries came and introduced white man’s education and the ways of the white man.It tells the story of a family’s three generations. Ngwaba (the first generation) who was from the old times, her son Anikwenwa who she took to a school so that he learns the white man’s language and his daughter Afamefuna(Grace) who is in the new generation.


‘Her father found her exhausting, this sharp tongued, head-strong daughter who had once wrestled her brother to the ground. After which her father had warned everybody not to let the news leave the compound that the girl had thrown a boy.’

She is the grandmother of Grace aka the headstrong historian. In her marriage she got a son and unfortunately her husband passed on. The husband had two very greedy cousins who then decided to take everything that her husband owned because she is a woman and can easily re-marry. At about this time the white man had come to villages around theirs and she heard stories of how someone was able to win a case in the white man’s court because said person spoke the language of the white man.She decides to take her son to school for the sole reason that he learns this language, he learns the language of the white man and is able to take back his land/property from his uncles, he also becomes a priest and even changes his name.

‘The plate of breadfruit seeds she had offered him was untouched-he no longer ate anything at all of hers-and she looked at him, this man wearing a trouser, and a rosary around his neck, and wondered whether she had meddled with his destiny.Was this what his chi had ordained for him,this life in which he was like a person diligently acting a bizarre pantomime?’


‘When it was time for his ima mmuo ceremony,he said he would not participate,because it was a heathen custom for boys to be initiated into the world of the spirits, a custom that Father Shanahan had said would have to stop.Nwamgba roughly yanked his ear and told him that a foreign albino could not determine when their customs would change,so until the clan itself decided that the initiation would stop,he would participate or else he would tell her whether he was her son or the white man’s son.’

He is the son of Ngwaba, whom she takes to school to learn English, which he does and goes on to be a priest, marries a girl that his mother doesn’t know which was unheard off in those days and they have two children a boy and girl.


‘From the moment Nwamgba held her, the baby’s bright eyes delightfully focused on her, she knew that it was the spirit of Obierika that had returned; odd, to have come in a girl, but who could predict the ways of the ancestors? Father O’Donnell baptized her Grace, but Nwamgba called her Afamefuna, ‘’My name will not be lost’’, and was thrilled by the child’s solemn interest in her pottery and stories, the teenager’s keen watchfulness as she struggled to make pottery with newly shaky hands.

She is the grand-daughter of Ngwaba that despite being born to her father’s Christian ways,is strongly attached to her grandmother because in the story she is the spirit of her grandfather come back(does this happen in real life???) and when her grandmother got really sick and wanted to see her, without anyone telling her she became restless while at school and was sleepless for many nights and she instinctively knew something was not right with her grandmother so she went home to see her. She goes through the education system and what she does with this new world education (drums roll…….) she re-imagines the lives and smells of her grandmother's world (through a lot of research) and she writes a book called; Pacifying with bullets: A reclaimed history of southern Nigeria.

Phrases I liked from this story(I liked all the words/sentences and phrases in this story)

From the moment she first saw him at a wrestling match, both of them staring and staring at each other, both of them too young, her waist not yet wearing the menstruation cloth, she had believed with a quiet stubbornness that her chi and his chi had destined their marriage, and so when he came to her father a few years later bringing pots of palm wine and accompanied by his relatives, she told her mother that this is the man she would marry.

She was determined to dislike her son’s wife, but Mgbeke was difficult to dislike;she was small-waisted and gentle, eager to please the man to whom she was married, eager to please everyone, quick to cry, apologetic about things over which she had no control. And so, instead, Nwamgba pitied her. Mgbeke often visited Nwamgba in tears, saying that Aninkwenwa had refused to eat dinner because he was upset with her or that he had banned her from going to a friend’s wedding,and Nwamgba would silently curve designs on her pottery while Mgbeke cried,uncertain of how to handle a woman crying about things that did not deserve tears’

It was Grace who would read about these savages, titillated by their curious and meaningless customs, not connecting them to herself,until her teacher,Sister Maureen,told her she could not refer to the call-and-response her grandmother had taught her as poetry because primitive tribes did not have poetry. It was Grace who after laughed loudly until Sister Maureen took her to detention and then summoned her father.

My recommendation on Chimamanda books is; If you haven’t read any start with Purple Hibiscus then Americanah, then Half of a Yellow sun and then The Thing Around Your Neck because in this way you read two really fun and easy to read books first and then a some what serious book (Half of a Yellow Sun) and then stories in The thing Around Your Neck that will feel so familiar like you already know everyone in the book and their back stories.

I have soft copies of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun so if you want these books let me know :-) :-).

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