MAAME by Jessica George

Maame by Jessica George is a novel about Maddie, a young Ghanaian woman living in London, who is coming in to her life as an adult. She is the primary caregiver to her father, who has Parkinson’s, as her mother spends very long periods of time in Ghana, leaving Maddie to handle things at home. When Maame opens, Maddie’s mother is coming home, freeing her to move out of her parents’ house and into an apartment for the first time. Although she is in her mid 20s, she has never dated or lived on her own before, and she is eager to experience life while also feeling guilty about leaving her father. Maame is about the transitions she experiences in that pivotal year.

Why I picked it up: It sounded good! I swapped for it on Facebook.

The description above may sound like a light, breezy book, but Maame is anything but. Maddie deals with a lot over the course of the novel: grief, guilt, microaggressions, racism, bad roommates, heartbreak, layoffs. Her life is challenging. Yet she’s a warm, funny person used to keeping her private life private and suppressing her emotions. She grows as a character, learning to express her anger and stand up for herself. Throughout the book, George peels away the onion layers around Maddie, slowly revealing more and more about her until she comes into sharp relief as a character. I’d say it’s a slow burn of a book – never fast-paced, but increasingly rich and full. There were times when I felt it dragged a little, but in the end I was quite glad I read it.

I listened to Maame on audio. It is narrated beautifully by Heather Agyepong, a British Ghanaian artist and actress who was a great choice for Maddie. She ably handled a wide range of voices and accents, and infused Maddie with appropriate anger and grief where necessary.

Maame was the 19th book of 2023.