Published by Knopf on May 14th 2013
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The first time I attempted to read this book – I did not finish it. I had a very hard time getting into it. I re-shelved it and put it on my dnf list. There was so much hype surrounding this book but for some reason it just did not grab me the first time around. Then KUYH was doing a reading challenge and I decided to try this book again. The second time was the charm. I know the first time I tried to read this book, I got it from the library and I didn’t like the print of the book. It was small and bothered me for some reason. The other part, the bigger part, was that I just wasn’t grabbed by the story. The book was very slow starting for my taste. But I kept reading good reviews and decided maybe I was missing something. There are times when I start a book and I am just not in the mood for that genre, or it is too much work at the time, but I am able to come back to it later and I am fully able to enjoy the story. This is what happened to me with this book.
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love living in Nigeria. Due to the political climate in Nigeria and their difficulty obtaining/completing an education there, they both apply for visas to the United States to complete their education. They have dreams of a better life in America. Ifemula’s visa is approved while Obinze’s visa is denied. Ifemula achieves academic success in America; however, she struggles with racial issues. For the first time in her life she has to deal with racism and racial distinction. She begins a blog about her experiences which becomes very popular. Obinze who has been denied a visa to the United States, travels to London where he eventually becomes an undocumented immigrant. He experiences racial issues in the U.K. and finds that he is only being employed for jobs for which he is over qualified. He is always thinking about Ifemelu but never hears from her. He is deported to Nigeria and is quite content when that happens. He is comfortable in Nigeria, gets married and builds a successful life.
Years later the two meet once again in Nigera where Obinze is living a prosperous life. They are left with questions about being in a relationship again after so much time apart and differing life experiences. What power does first love have? Do you destroy one relationship/family for the sake of another?
This book is about so many things: love, education, acceptance, race, racial identity, racism, immigration, belonging, choices, hair, relationships, and starting over. The writing was wonderful but the story felt slow in parts. I wanted to move it along at times. This book was more social commentary than love story for me. This book also felt very long to me. The writing was beautiful but at times felt a little wordy. This book was about so many things and had a lot of minor characters. This would make a very good book club book as there is a lot to discuss with this book.