Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi, but in my case, it means woman.
Meet Maddie Wright.
All her life, she’s been told who she is. To her Ghanaian parents, she’s Maame: the one who takes care of the family. Her mum’s stand-in. The primary carer for her father, who suffers from Parkinson’s. The one who keeps the peace – and the secrets.
It’s time for her to speak up.
When she finally gets the chance to leave home, Maddie is determined to become the kind of woman she wants to be. One who wears a bright yellow suit, dates men who definitely aren’t on her mum’s list of prospective husbands, and stands up to her boss’s microaggressions. Someone who doesn’t have to google all her life choices.
But when tragedy strikes, Maddie is forced to face the risks – and rewards – of putting her heart on the line.
But will it take losing everything to find her voice?
*This ARC was sent to me by Wearemedia Hive and Hodder & Stoughton, please read our disclaimer policy for more information*
Whew. This was a damn good book.
Like a ‘get lost in the story’ kind of book.
A ‘lose track of time’ type of book.
A ‘finish reading with a warm feeling’ type of book.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I went into this book but I really wasn’t expecting to feel so seen. So heard. If you happen to be the eldest daughter in your family…or even the only daughter.
This book is for you.
The reader is introduced to Maddie, 25 years old, (Maame to her family) as she cares for her father, who has advanced Parkinson’s disease and stuck in a dead end job. The rest of her family is hardly ever around; her mother runs a business in Ghana and her oldest brother seems to be everywhere but at home. She’s learned how to fend for herself whilst making sure she’s always there for her father. However, Maddie’s mother decides to come back to England and offers to look after her husband. Maddie squashes the guilt she fills and moves into a flat share with two other women.
For Maddie, this is seemingly when her life starts to begin.
“I love you Dad, okay? See you soon, okay?”
And gosh, does this book take you on such a journey. You can’t help but root for Maddie throughout. You want her to succeed. You laugh at the outlandish comments made by her mother. You’ll roll your eyes at every example of microaggression or flat out racism. You’ll want to hug Maddie whenever you can see her naviety (which is often).
Despite how often Maddie comes across as naive, I never got irritated by it. Jessica wrote Maddie so well that everything she does is somewhat understandable. Even though, you may not necessarily agree with it.
But you get it. You get how she ended up in that situation in the first place.
This story does such a beautiful job at exploring the emotional turmoil of grief. It outlines how differently everyone grieves and how that feeling never really goes. Maddie’s relationships with her family members are to be discussed and the amount of times I wanted to fight them for her…
She deserved so much better.
But I guess this is where the phrase Maame comes in. A twi word which translates into woman. Maddie reveals that family members began to call her that from a young age. It lends a hand into how quickly she has to grow up. The adultification of young Black women is often perpetuated and portrayed in the media. Whilst, we often make jokes about how the eldest daughters in cultural households often end up having to grow up fast.
Is it ever really discussed in detail?
I could go into detail about the amount of times I have wanted to scream at the fact I’m the oldest. Things like Christmas presents for my parents wouldn’t happen in my house if it wasn’t for me. The eldest daughters, in particular, learn how to be organised. To step in to take the place of parents when need be. If my mum disappears for the weekend (or more), the washing, cooking and cleaning falls to me majority of the time.
I empathised with Maddie so much more than I realised.
But Maddie also loved the phrase Maame. Not only does it remind her of her culture, which Jessica does so well at portraying. It’s also an affectionate nickname for her. She knows it came from a place of love and for that alone, she can’t completely hate it.
“How do you know if you’re genuinely happy or if you’re just mostly all right, with sprinkles of laughter and occasional shit storms of sadness?”
Overall, this book was beautiful story about growing up and figuring out life. There’s no easy road and every path is different for everyone. With themes of grief, mental health, romance, friendship and unlearning toxic ideals of assimilation, the reader is taken on a coming of age journey with Maddie. Despite the heavy topics discussed, Jessica manages to balance this out extremely well with light moments in the book. Complicated parental relationships are discussed in depth but yet, Jessica is very real in exploring how difficult it is for the older generation who have different ideals and morals learned from a time before our own.
A brilliant debut that will move you and keep you utterly hooked throughout. I’ll be keeping an eye out for anything else Jessica writes and I highly recommend everyone to read it!
Liz Dexter says
I really loved this one, too – I just reviewed it today. I was really rooting for Maddie and loved how she kept her innocence in a way but was able to grow and flourish. I also liked the way her Christianity was a positive point, not a negative one, as seems to happen quite a lot. And I loved her friends and they way they helped each other.
It’s interesting to read your cultural points and see that George got them on point. I think it falls to the older daughter in many cultures, but there also seems to be a stepping into an absence which I don’t see so much in White British families I know, if that makes sense. My review’s here if you fancy a read https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2023/02/23/book-review-jessica-george-maame/
I totally agree! I really liked the way Christianity was portrayed in comparison to books like Yinka which you mentioned in your review! It’s so refreshing!
Hmm I think it does tend to be stepping into an absence or playing ‘traditional roles’ which is hard to break out of in many cultures!