by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 2.25.05 PMA big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. So many different genres: coming-of-age novel, romance, comic novel of social manners, up-to-the-minute meditation on race, as well as the immigrant saga.

Opening paragraph: Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly. Philadelphia had the musty scent of history. New Haven smelled of neglect. Baltimore smelled of brine, and Brooklyn of sun-warmed garbage. But Princeton had no smell. She liked taking deep breaths here. She liked watching the locals who drove with pointed courtesy and parked their latest model cars outside the organic grocery store on Nassau Street or outside the sushi restaurants or outside the ice cream shop that had fifty different flavors including red pepper or outside the post office where effusive staff bounded out to greet them at the entrance. She liked the campus, grave with knowledge, the Gothic buildings with their vine-laced walls, and the way everything transformed, in the half-light of night, into a ghostly scene. She liked, most of all, that in this place of affluent ease, she could pretend to be someone else, someone specially admitted into a hallowed American club, someone adorned with certainty.

Quotes from critics: “Adichie paints on a grand canvas, boldly and confidently, equally adept at conveying the complicated political backdrop of Lagos as she is in bringing us into the day-to-day lives of her many new Americans. This is a very funny, very warm and moving intergenerational epic that confirms Adiche’s virtuosity, boundless empathy and searing social acuity.” (author Dave Eggers); “A brilliant novel: epic in scope, personal in resonance and with lots to say.” (The Observer); “It is not a stretch to say that her finely observed new book, which combines perfectly calibrated social satire and heartfelt emotion, stands with Invisible Man and The Bluest Eye as a defining work about the experience of being black in America.” (Bookforum)

Bio: Born in Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977- ) came to the U.S. for college and graduate school. Winner of a MacArthur “genius grant,” she is also the author of Purple Hibiscus (longlisted for the Booker Prize), Half of a Yellow Sun (winner of Orange Prize for Fiction), and a short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck. Adichie divides her time between Nigeria, where she teaches writing workshops, and the United States.

Award: National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction