Chinedu Achebe’s The Miseducation of Obi Ifeanyi is a character-driven novel revolving around a Nigerian-American couple and their relatives and friends. Amid typical marriage struggles, both personal and long-hidden family secrets surface to bring a new dynamic to these relationships.
Obi is a young attorney living in Houston with his wife Nkechi and their toddler. As his wife juggles motherhood and finishing her master’s degree in public policy, Obi feels the pressures of daily life, including being a husband and supporting a family.
Concerns mount when two former girlfriends resurface. With the upcoming nuptials of his best friend from law school, Obi’s thoughts stray to his former single life. Temptations arise as Nkechi helps run a political campaign for an ex-girlfriend with whom Obi shares a deep emotional past. A shocking revelation regarding the family patriarch adds a new dimension to the long-held beliefs of the Ifeanyi clan.
Set during the Obama era in 2012, Achebe’s work is an engaging blend of family, culture and politics, emphasizing the hopes and dreams of the Nigerian community witnessing an African-American, whose father was from Kenya, lead the country.
The story is layered with Nigerian culture, including character names and food served at family gatherings, as well as the traditions of a wedding ceremony and the pressure on the Nigerian community to back one of their own running for city council. The narrative also provides contrasting religious beliefs and controversy over male vs. female double standards from generational points of view.
While overall the dialogue is steady and comfortable, the youthful vernacular—with its frequent use of jargon, obscenities and profanity (“Yea, the shit is no joke on the real”) and casually idiomatic racist comments (“My nigga, Nnamdi…”)— might put off some readers. Additionally, better proofreading would have caught missing or incorrect words.
Still, those who relish family drama with a blend of cultural traditions and generational differences should enjoy this provocative story.
Also available as an ebook.