‘Then there was the checkout lady who had dry yellow hair that sat like a triangle of foam on her head and the kind of heavy glasses that seemed responsible for her nasal voice as she commented on the items she scanned with superlative enthusiasm: “these are just the best ever…..isn’t this the most amazing….oh my God, these are my favorite in the entire universe.” She leaned in close to thank Max before handing him his receipt. her breath smelled of a mixture of white wine, rot, and babies’ heads.’
After literally battling with a book whose author I think is trying too hard to sound sophisticated, I chance upon this impressive story whose mundane yet thought-provoking plot excited me. This is a story of the strong relationship between a single father and his teenage son. The depth of their togetherness is highlighted in the funny conclusion that ‘no woman or beard trimmer could ever pull them apart’. The story unfolds from the son’s perspective and touches on culture, immigration, the protagonist’s (the son) search for himself and his roots drawing from snatches of information given him by his father about both their untold pasts. Through a character that wants to avoid his past by doing such things as changing his name from Rasheed to Reed, the author succeeds in blending humor with important topics such as the question of identity in a country where diversity is much celebrated. Rasheed’s (the father ) story is much comparable to the tale of the ostrich that conceals its head in sand in a bid to disappear forgetting that its whole body is still exposed. Reed (Rasheed) is a Lebanese man whose features; dark, thick and smooth hairy body, as well as accent, all allude to his origin without the need for further confirmation. He chooses to mask these strong statements with a name that is as light as a veil. How ironic. He also tries to imitate American lingua by using the words ‘folks’ and ‘howdy’. The saying of which results in catastrophic outcomes as they always come out sounding as ‘Audi’ (Howdy) and ‘fucks’ (Folks)!
Why I Love this Story
There’s a billion and one quotes I can relate to especially those ones that surround culture; ‘This is why culture is stupid, Maxie / People think it unites people, but the truth is, it separates even more. We have a good life. We don’t need culture or religion or things like this. / We are individuals, so why come together under a flag or something and say that because we like the same food or soccer team or politics or time of prayer that we are all the same?’ Being Ghanaian and meeting other Ghanaians outside of Ghana has brought me this genuine excitement at knowing that a complete stranger I meet is a Ghanaian too. I probably have felt more Ghanaian than ever outside Ghana yet I agree with this quotation only because sharing the same nationality with another human does not make us necessarily the same. I have felt same as persons from entirely different African nations and entirely different races. Same way I have met some Ghanaians I do not consider being same as only because our experiences are very opposite. Common interests can unite or separate people, in the end, it is a person’s spirit and your ability to coexist that matters. Though a common nationality can foster that togetherness, the same nationality can do more than ruin relationships, ask members of different tribes that belong to the same country for more on this.
Reading parts of the internal musings of the main character only reminded me of who I am! I think it is extremely pleasant to be so much in tune with a character that you wonder if you know them in real life or if you only met them in a book. So Max is out here disagreeing silently with the way his dad’s lady friend is cutting vegetables. ‘He silently disagreed with the way she chopped veggies and the order in which she pan-fried them.’ I disagree silently with a lot of people in my life over many things.
There’s also that part about Max feeling internally elated about his father Rasheed and his friend having a fight. Truth is that when we get territorial and possessive of another person and they, in turn, develop a friendship or attachment of some sort with another, though petty and very evil, we sometimes wish they would fight and separate. When they do though, human as we are, we act empathetic but smile inwardly.
To conclude, I love this book. The title is attractive, the events unfold naturally and it is an easy read whose account will excite you in the weirdest of ways…
Some good quotations
“If you were (are) unflinchingly convinced of yourself, then you were (are) equipped to be a leader”
Max’s relationship with Nadine is an extension of his need for maternal love.
“He yearned for her to draw him near so he could rest his head on her breasts a while…”