Tuesday, December 5, 2023


Author:  Jessica George
Publication Information:  St. Martins' Press. 2023. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1250282527 / 978-1250282521

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "In African culture - Wait, no, I don't want to be presumptuous or in any way nationalistic enough to assume certain Ghanaian customs run true in other African countries."

Favorite Quote:  "Many assume love is straightforward ... when really it is the most complicated of things. There is a right way, a preferred way, for each individual, to love and be loved by someone - but there isn't only one way. I believe the difficulty of life has much to do with understanding and then navigating how the people you love both express and receive love themselves. It cannot be your responsibility, your burden, to reshape people into someone you'd like them to be. Ultimately, you must either accept a person for who they are, how they behave, how they express themselves emotionally, and find a healthy way to live with them, or let them go entirely. Either way, you must release yourself from that responsibility."

Maddie is a London native, a daughter of Ghanian immigrants. She is twenty-something and drifting through life. Her parents' marriage is unique. Her mother spends most of her time in Ghana. Her father remains in London. He suffers from Parkinsons, and Maddie is his primary caretaker. She has a brother; however,  her brother is off living his own life and is only tangentially involved in the responsibility for their father.

Added to the family dynamic are the Maddie's career challenges. She is often the only person of color in her work. She loses her job because of a manager's personal issues. She finds a new one that seems more suited to her goal and more employee friendly. However, can Maddie own her position? "It's not your job to make your colleagues feel comfortable all the time."

Her nickname "Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman." However, who is Maddie? Does she know? "I'm sure there was a time when I was happy ... But how do you measure that? How do you know if you're genuinely happy or if you're just mostly all right with sprinkles of laughter and occasional shit storms of sadness? Maybe I've only ever been all right."

In so many ways, Maame is a coming of age story. Her mother's visit to London and the loss of her job sets Maddie on a new path. She moves out into her first apartment. She starts a new job. She meets someone new. Unfortunately, a tragedy soon sends this positive new beginning on an unexpected down spiral. Guilt, remorse, and sadness permeate all of Maddie's actions and threaten to undo the positive, new changes in Maddie's life. At the same time, the tragedy brings a reckoning of family and some very difficult conversations that perhaps should have happened years ago.

Ultimately, there is a lesson. "Thing is, you don't ever go back, Maddie, to life before, and my advice is to accept that ... Accept that your life is different now because of this monumental, irreversible change and that it's okay to feel guilty one day and indescribable happiness another. This is life now." The lesson is a very real one and relevant to each and every one of us.

That being said, Maddie as a character is a challenging one to like. Her journey of self-discovery is a slow read. The frequent google searches are a bit much. An attempt is made to cover a lot of issues - parenting, caregiving, chronic illness, death, immigrant experience, race, relationships, equity in professional environments, mental health, and more. Perhaps, a few too many issues for any one to be developed in full depth.

An interesting premise, a relatable lesson, but ultimately a story that proves to be a challenge.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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