Author: Jessica George

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: January 31st, 2023

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format read: Audiobook

StoryGraph Summary: Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.

It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.

When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils—and rewards—of putting her heart on the line.

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Jessica George’s Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures—and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.

Find the Book: StoryGraph | Goodreads | Bookshop

The Review

To be honest, I first picked up this book because of how absolutely gorgeous the cover was. I’d seen it on the bestseller list and knew that I absolutely had to read the words inside such a beautiful book jacket. Upon completing the book, I can safely say that in this case, it was accurate to judge a book by its cover. Maame was an artfully told story of a girl coming of age in a family where she was forced to grow up long ago.

While Maddie is already 25 years old, she moves away from home for the first time when the book begins. Her father suffers from Parkinson’s and her mother spends the majority of her time in Ghana (the book takes place in the UK, but Maddie’s parents are both from Ghana), meaning that Maddie became the primary caretaker for her father. It is only at the start of the book, when her mum returns from Ghana, that Maddie is able to begin her own life.

Through struggles with dating, work, and family, we follow Maddie’s life as she figures out who she is for the first time. Maame most definitely doesn’t shy away from discussing racism, and the way it is shown through Maddie’s relatively naive eyes feels both real and devastating. While reading this, I found myself both yelling at her to do better and understanding the logic behind her actions. I am the same age as Maddie, but I had many of the same experiences she is having at 25 while in college; that is when I grew up, and so in many ways she feels much younger than I.

The book is written with frequent fourth wall breaks, with lines such as “by now you’ve met my mother” talking directly to the reader. This worked to further emphasize the youth and naivety of Maddie, since we knew that we were seeing characterizations of her friends, coworkers, and potential boyfriends through her eyes. While it through me off the first time, I found myself growing to appreciate the fourth wall breaks and what it added to the story.

The only complaint I have for this book is that part of the ending— which I will not share here lest I ruin it for others— felt a touch predictable and unnecessary. The way the book followed Maddie’s individual growth and her family was incredibly well done, and I think there would have been power to leaving it at that. However, I also appreciate the fact that our main character was given a chance at happiness.

While this book was written in a similar style to novels such as Luster, Thin Girls, and You Exist Too Much, it is explicitly different in the way it consistently pushes for Maddie’s happiness and self-actualization. Luster‘s Edie is all too aware and jaded by the way white men treat her like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl rather than a whole human. Maddie is pushed into the same boxes, but is still able to find her happiness apart from these people. If you are a fan of the dream-like writing style of those novels but want a story tinged with more hope, Maame is the book for you.