Jessica George’s “Maame” is a sensational debut. It’s a coming-of-age page-turner that tackles weighty themes with a light touch, anchored by 25 year old Londoner, Maddie; referred to as ‘Maame’ by her Ghanaian family, which is intended as a term of endearment, a salute to her reliability, but is actually the root of her anxiety, which festers and turns poisonous as we witness several tumultuous incidents throughout these 400 pages.
Maddie lives at home with her father, who is in the late stages of Parkinson’s, and is virtually his only carer. Maddie’s mother runs a business in Ghana and rarely returns; when she contacts Maddie, it’s only ever to ask for money or chastise her non-existent love life. Maddie’s brother, James, is always busy; always has something else on his plate, and never has the money spare to lend a hand. The onus is squarely on Maddie — always.
“Maame” is the story of a young woman surviving tragedy; of reinventing herself, or rather, determining who she really is when not overloaded and overwhelmed. In Maddie, Jessica George has created such an engaging and endearing character, and this is a book that spoke to my heart in so many ways, once again opening my eyes to the casual racism and discrimination faced by Black women in every walk of life.
I loved “Maame” in the same way I loved “Queenie” by Candice Carty-Williams; equal parts heart-warming, heart-breaking, and hilarious. Easily one of the most enjoyable reading experiences of my year so far.