The Thing Around Your Neck

I had gone four months without reading a good book partly because I was busy finishing my postgraduate thesis but mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t bought any new books lately. So you can imagine my delight when my younger sister mentioned that she just purchased a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’.
I actually had plans to read the book when it was released but being a lover of big books I decided to snub this one and jumped at “Americanah”. I will be doing a review of “Americanah” soon, but for this blog I want to share my thoughts on “The Thing Around Your Neck”.
Deep Breath! Here goes!
The book is just 218 pages. Yes, you heard me, small book. But I must admit that once I picked it up I was instantly drawn in. There are 12 short stories in all and each one drags you in and spits you out just as you begin to love the characters. I guess I am really not the type for short stories. I love to have a long winding narration that sucks me in so deep that when I am on the last page I am already mourning the loss of the characters I have come to love!
Anyway, back to my review. So for me this book was just short, but my goodness it was beautiful! Each story was unique and delightful to read. I like the way Chimamanda writes, I always have, ever since I picked up “Purple Hibiscus” in 2005. Her style of writing is shockingly descriptive giving the reader very vivid translations of her intentions with each word.
Right away I am going to say that of all the 12 stories it was hard to pick a favourite, but I finally decided on “The Arrangers of Marriage”. And as I write now I am thinking that was probably not my favourite. Can I say each story held me captive for the time I spent on them? I went through each story with a fever that I cannot even explain now. I think once I started each story I would begin to race to the end wanting to know what happens, hoping, wishing that the story doesn’t end too soon. When I get to the end of the story I am left feeling unfinished-like I needed the story to extend further, open more curtains and permit me to turn more pages.
I would have loved to take each story to analyze in detail but I will refrain from doing that because I could end up spilling the whole book here. Yes, that’s how much I enjoyed it. I was practically burning to talk about it with someone…anyone. I think I even took a story to my dreams and re-enacted it!
Let’s look at what I thought of the 10th story in the book “The Arrangers of Marriage”. The story like I have experienced with all of the author’s stories begins with a striking first sentence. I always tell fellow readers and anyone who cares to listen that the first three sentences of a story for me determines if I will drop the book or keep reading.
“The Arrangers of Marriage” is the story of a young woman Chinaza Okafor who grew up with an uncle and aunt that we come to discover arrange for her to be married to a doctor who lives and works in the United States of America. She doesn’t have much to say in the matter because she feels indebted to them. The story showcases what I like to call “obligation to the elders”.
“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!“ Those were the words of Chinaza’s aunt. With this kind of emotional blackmail, the poor girl is shipped away to America with a stranger.

The man she married, her new husband as Chimamanda describes him is a “wannabe” who makes her change her name to an English name, forces her to stop speaking Igbo and introduces her to “American food” which she dislikes. Chinaza later meets a lady, Nia in the building where she resides with her husband and becomes friends with her, she realizes from the first night with him that lovemaking is a singular act as is pleasure and that he married her only because he wanted a Nigerian wife and on the chance that she may be a virgin! The story reaches a climax when Chinaza’s new husband tells her he was married to a white girl for papers and the girl was now giving him issues, hence the delay in obtaining her own papers. Chinaza struggles with the decision to either stay or leave. The end.
If you want to know what she finally chose to do, please pick up the book. This is not an advertisement; I just thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.
I must also add that I noticed the stories had strong female characters especially the protagonist, natural hair was a feature in some of the stories, some of the themes I noticed were woven into the stories include: deception, pride, religion, sexual orientation, jealousy, spirituality, tradition, love etc. Human frailties are so well defined in this book. For me, it was as though there was no fear in the story telling. The author does not shy away from narrating the loss of loved ones, sex is described head on and there is no sense of pretense in owning one’s opinions.
The story that takes the book’s title was equally interesting, it explored the experience of a young girl who wins the visa lottery and comes to America. However, her reality doesn’t appear to be great when she has to leave her “uncle”’s house because of a failed attempt to sleep with her. From there on, living in America and trying to find her feet, getting into a relationship with a white man, not being able to write home to narrate her experiences to her parents becomes her reality. I felt like the thing around the character’s neck was the depression from being away from home and yet being unable to find home in America coupled with racism and a despondency of the “alieness” of America. I could be wrong!
I also enjoyed the way the stories swung from first person narration to second person and third person narration techniques. I found myself chuckling at the very vivid descriptions of characters and the way she just crafts her stories…sigh! Reading Chimamanda’s “The Thing Around Your Neck” was all together a very satisfying experience.
Have you read “The Thing Around Your Neck?” Leave your comments below. Thanks for reading!



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