Welcome to the April edition of Short & Sweet, my feature dedicated to short fiction. This year I’ve worked my way through a pile of short stories, usually as bedtime reading. This month I read The Thing Around Your Neck, by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s been 5 years since I read her novels, and I needed an Adichie fix while waiting for her new book, Americanah, which will be released in the US in May.
This collection of twelve short stories begins in Nigeria, exploring contemporary life and the effects of the 1967 Biafran Civil War. Later stories focus on immigration issues and life in the United States. I was struck by Adichie’s ability to write a well-crafted and deep plot, with very real characters, all in 15-20 pages. These stories hooked me within a few sentences — I really cared about the characters, to a degree that’s unusual for the short story form. Some of the better stories included:
- Imitation – A woman living in the US with her children sees her husband only once a year. When she learns he is having an affair back home in Nigeria, she takes an important step to change the situation.
- A Private Experience – A woman caught in a riot takes refuge in an abandoned shop and finds another woman there. One is Igbo, the other Muslim, but they share a few hours of community and support each other through loss.
- The Thing Around Your Neck – in this immigration story, a Nigerian woman’s relationship with a white man creates cultural tension.
Adichie is better known for her novels, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun; the latter won the Orange Prize (now Women’s Prize) for Fiction. The Thing Around Your Neck demonstrates the broad range of her writing talent.
Next month I’ll be reading The Means of Escape, by Penelope Fitzgerald. Watch for the next installment of Short & Sweet!