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Maame by Jessica George
Contemporary fiction

Maame

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Jessica George, on your first book!

by Jessica George

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Quick take

Coming of age is hard work but this heartwarming story of self-discovery has plenty of laughs and wisdom to spare too.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad

    Sad

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Millenial

    Millennial

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration

    Immigration

Synopsis

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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Maame.
Maame

Chapter One

In African culture—Wait, no, I don’t want to be presumptuous or in any way nationalistic enough to assume certain Ghanaian customs run true in other African countries. I might in fact just be speaking of what passes as practice in my family, but regardless of who the mores belong to, I was raised to keep family matters private. So if my dad has his own bedroom or my mum goes abroad for inexplicable lengths of time, it’s common knowledge within our household that we keep that business, and all matters like it, to ourselves. “They just won’t understand, you know? We’re Ghanaian, so we do things differently.”

Growing up, school dynamics, books, and shows on TV told me that best friends tell each other everything. It was almost the sole requirement, but I had to bend this rule, knowing the pieces of information I withheld meant I could never truly qualify as anyone’s best friend, not when no one really knew me.

Even now, none of my friends—helpfully, I don’t have many—know that every weekday I start the morning the same way. I wake up five minutes before my alarm and wait for it to go off at 6:00 a.m. I blink away any sticky traces of the night and tread silently downstairs, past my dad’s bedroom—now relocated to the ground floor—and into the kitchen. I close the door to restrict traveling noise and pour myself a bowl of cornflakes, eating a spoonful at a time as I move around the kitchen.

It’s a small, functional area with a gas stove (in desperate need of cleaning, but I assign that task to tomorrow evening), an oven with a missing grill door, a tall fridge, a smaller freezer filled with various unidentified let-me-not-waste-this food pieces (sorting through assigned to Saturday afternoon) and a washing machine that dances out from under the countertop when it’s on, but when empty is just light enough to push back with the weight of my body. Said countertops are a white-speckled dark gray with a dull sheen I think is meant to trick you into believing it’s marble.

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Why I love it

Finding yourself in the company of great characters is one of the truest pleasures of reading, and it always feels like alchemy when a writer is able to create a character so fully realized they seem liable to hop off the page and shake your hand. But such is the feat that Jessica George pulls off in Maame.

At the center of this story is Maddie, a young black British woman who is a bit of a late bloomer. When we first meet her, Maddie is stuck in a dead-end job and spends most of her time outside work caring for her father who has Parkinson’s. But when her overbearing mother returns from her latest trip to Ghana, it presents Maddie with a chance to finally kick start her coming of age journey. She goes through all the classic trials and tribulations of modern #adulting from online dating to learning to find her voice at work. It is thrilling to watch her come into her own and learn through trial and error what she really wants from life (and who she wants to share it with). And through it all, Maddie had me in stitches. She possesses a distinctive sense of humor that shines through on every page.

Maame is a warm and wise novel that wears its heart on its sleeve. I was totally rooting from Maddie just a few pages in and know you will be too, reader. This is not a story to be missed.

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Member ratings (11,457)

  • Alysson E.

    Portland, OR

    “Some things you’re not meant to be saved from….Some things have to be lessons.” Oof. That hit me in the gut, and I’m so glad we had front row seats to Maddie learning to live her life. Loved.

  • Victoria T.

    San Francisco , CA

    I didn’t know how much I needed to read this book. Maddie’s story resonated so much with me - her confidence, awkwardness, growth, and everything in between was such a joy to read. One of my new faves

  • Rebecca S.

    Cedar Hill, TX

    Very poignant and eye-opening about racial bias. This is one of the stronger coming-of-age novels I’ve read. I could feel what Maddie was going through. My only issue is that it was a bit predictable.

  • Elizabeth M.

    Logan, UT

    A young black woman’s story of dealing with family, roommates, crappy bosses, and bad dates in current day London. It deals with so many issues that all relatable to anyone coming of age. Great read!

  • Annie P.

    Louisville, KY

    This story when broken wide open hits all the emotions! Maddie’s journey searching for happiness and a life of her own had my emotions all over the place. A tad but YA at times, but I ended up loving.

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