STARRED REVIEW
February 2023

Maame

By Jessica George
Like Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones, Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie Jenkins and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant, Maddie is a good reminder that we can be the authors of our own happy endings, and it is never too late to become who you might have been.
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Shakespeare’s Juliet famously pondered, “What’s in a name?” and although she may have concluded that names fail to reflect any intrinsic qualities of a person, the protagonist of Jessica George’s compassionate debut novel, Maame, knows better. Dubbed “Maame” by her mother as a baby, Madeline Wright has struggled with the weight of her nickname her entire life. The seemingly innocuous five-letter Twi word is heavy with multiple meanings: “the responsible one,” “the mother,” “the woman.”

Now in her 20s, Maddie believes that her life in London has well and truly stalled. In order to keep her family afloat, she works as a personal assistant, performing soul-crushing drudge work in offices where she is often the only Black person. When she’s not at work, she cares for her father, who has Parkinson’s disease, because her mother spends most of the year back in Ghana, only checking in to ask for money or hound Maddie about when she plans on getting married. Maddie’s older brother is never around and rarely takes her calls. So at the tender age of 25, Maddie has never had sex, still lives at home and finds herself wondering if her mother’s pet name was meant as a term of endearment or a curse.

When her mother unexpectedly returns to England, Maddie takes the chance to stretch her wings, fly the nest and reinvent herself. With plenty of growing pains along the way, Maddie navigates flat-sharing, new friendships, online dating and sex, racism, career changes and grief. Slowly, she transforms from a sheltered girl who had adulthood prematurely thrust upon her into a woman of her own making. 

Masterfully balancing comedy, tragedy and tenderness, Maame is a nuanced and powerful coming-of-age story. George candidly captures the false starts, heartbreak and awkwardness of early adulthood with empathy and a necessary dose of humor. Maddie easily joins the highest ranks of memorable and lovable “hot mess” characters. Like Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones, Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie Jenkins and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant before her, Maddie is a good reminder that through all of life’s hardships, we can be the authors of our own happy endings, and it is never too late to become who you might have been. 

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Maame

Maame

By Jessica George
St. Martin’s
ISBN 9781250282521

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