‘Zikora’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a short-story that starts off with the titular protagonist struggling to give birth. She is in excruciating pain, but is constantly informed she has ‘made no progress’, although it feels like she will die from the effort. The first few pages set in the maternity ward reminded me of the famous British trilogy ‘Call The Midwife’, which was about birth, blood, pain and shit (both literal & metaphorical).

Zikora is a 39-year-old lawyer living in America, who had the perfect boyfriend, until she announced her pregnancy. So she only has her cold-strict Nigerian mother for support during delivery. In flashbacks, the author explains both the strained mother-daughter relationship and Zikora’s failed affair with the handsome-cool Kwame, the father of her child. There’s also a strong glimpses of the difference between the Nigerian and American way of life, so we get a brief slice of two very different cultures.

Adichie weaves smooth sentences, full of nostalgia, memories, love, loathing and regret. However, I had very mixed feeling about Zikora’s character. If her age hadn’t been explicitly mentioned in the story, most readers would assume her to be in her late 20s and not 30s. There’s a childish defiance in her character, perhaps even an innocent desperation in some of her acts. Since the tale is told in first person, there’s also the element of an unreliable narrator, everything is seen through the one-sided lens of the narrator. We don’t know the other side of the story.

The author should’ve perhaps into a novella sized book, because her attempt to pack in two parallel relationship trajectories in a short-story results in an abrupt unsatisfactory climax. It’s a 3/5 from me.

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Ep 71 – Before The Coffee Gets Cold – Book Review