The Thing Around Your Neck

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as “one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years” (Baltimore Sun), with “prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes” (The Boston Globe). Her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun became an instant classic upon its publication three years later, once again putting her tremendous gifts—graceful storytelling, knowing compassion, and fierce insight into her characters’ hearts—on display.

In The Thing Around Your Neck (published in 2009); Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but also America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.

In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them.

Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.

The Thing Around Your Neck is licensed for publication in 19 languages.

Awards/ Distinctions for stories included in The Thing Around Your Neck

  • O. Henry Prize for ‘The American Embassy’, 2003

Praise for:

The Thing Around Your Neck

"One comes away from The Thing Around Your Neck heartened by [Adichie’s] self-awareness and unpredictability. She knows what it means to sit at the table, and also what it takes to walk away."

The New York Times Book Review

"Affecting...In these stories, which take place in Nigeria and the United States, questions of belonging and loyalty are multiplied several times over…The most powerful stories in this volume depict immensely complicated, conflicted characters, many of [whom] have experienced the random perils of life firsthand...Adichie demonstrates that she is adept at conjuring the unending personal ripples created by political circumstance, at conjuring both the ‘hard, obvious’ facts of history, and ‘the soft, subtle things that lodge themselves into the soul.'"

The New York Times

"Don’t let Adichie’s highbrow resume scare you away from her accessible and compelling short-story collection…In these stories set both in Nigeria and in the USA, she touches on religion, corruption, Nigeria’s civil war and living in America as a lonely African wife. Mostly, however, she creates indelible characters who jump off the page and into your head and heart."

USA Today

"You know it when you see it: the ability to conjure whole lives, times, places, worlds in a few deft splashes of prose, Picassoesque line drawings of the mind, without resort to attitudinal or perspectival gambits, language games, postmodern devices. Plenty of people have recognized the sure-handed literary classicism of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie…Like most of us–but perhaps more so–Adichie’s imagination seems fired by nostalgia for a lost childhood world at least as much as by the challenges of the ever-moving present tense that has swept it so unceremoniously, irretrievably away."

Elle Magazine

"Adichie belongs to the rare group of young writers whose wisdom sets them apart from writers of their age...The Thing Around Your Neck once again showcases her insights into human nature under social, ethical, cultural as well as personal dilemmas...Adichie’ s characters don’t feel as though they were merely created; rather, it is as if they were invited into the stories by the most understanding hostess...Together these stories once again prove that Adichie is one of those rare writers that any country or any continent would feel proud to claim as its own."

San Francisco Chronicle

"Powerful...Arresting. The distilled world of the short story suits Adichie beautifully:  She shows a rare talent for finding the images and gestures that etch a narrative moment unforgettably in the reader’s memory...A very solid collection, [one that] resonates with an aching undercurrent of dislocation and loss of identity...Exquisite stories that will take you to places you didn’t know existed."

The Seattle Times

"Wonderfully crafted...this collection is nothing less than a literary feast."

Tucson Citizen

"Powerful, deftly assembled...Adichie’s gifts as a storyteller [are all] on display...The backgrounds of her characters may initially seem exotic to Western readers. And yet the love, justice, and understanding they seek are so fundamental and familiar that there are few readers of any background who won’t recognize acres–perhaps even miles–of common ground. Here, Adichie’s characters are as likely to inhabit Hartford or Princeton as they are Nsukka or Lagos...Adichie gives us what a first-rate writer should: a keen yet poignant view of the contradictions of the human condition."

The Christian Science Monitor

"Superb. With minimal fuss [these stories] present snapshots of Nigerian life...Both as a person and a writer, [Adichie] is engaged in an ongoing project of rebellion against the expectations of others–of those who want to be able to tell her what the world is like, and what her place in it should be."

The Observer

"Beautifully crafted...As Baltasar Gracián, a 17th-century Spanish writer, once wrote, ‘Good things, when short, are twice as good.’ This compressed kind of pleasure is abundantly evident in [The Thing Around Your Neck]. Adichie has attracted a lot of attention in her relatively short career...This book will show you why."

San Diego Union-Tribune

"A fortunate few writers possess the rare but unmistakable quality of inspiring a reader’s confidence within a few sentences. It is a curious, almost unliterary trait: like meeting a person whom one knows is going to become a friend. The secret is not one of content or style…Her particular gift is the seductive ability to tell a story...Adichie writes with an economy and precision that makes the strange seem familiar. She makes storytelling seem as easy as birdsong."

The Daily Telegraph (UK)

"As richly modulated as [Adichie’s] hard-hitting novels are, her short stories are equally well-tooled and potent...A meticulous observer of tactile detail and emotional nuance, Adichie moves sure-footedly from the personal to the communal...Adichie’s graceful and slicing stories of characters struggling with fear, anger, and sorrow beautifully capture the immense resonance of small things as the larger world pitches into incoherence."

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