cover image Maame


Jessica George. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-28252-1

In this pitch-perfect debut, George captures the uncertainty, freedom, and anxiety of a London woman’s mid-20s. Narrator Maddie Wright is a people pleaser who earns the nickname Maame (“the responsible one”) from her family. She has an unsatisfying theater admin job where she is often “the only Black person in the room,” and while her older brother, James, lives his life as he wants and her mother spends most of her time in her homeland of Ghana, Maddie steps up as the main caregiver for her Parkinson’s afflicted father. Between her mother hitting her up for money and her incommunicative father, Maddie searches on Google for career guidance and dating advice, as well as remedies for panic attacks and grief. As her social life further dwindles and she worries she’ll always be a virgin, Maddie begins the “slow descent into a dull existence.” Then her mother finally comes back to take care of Maddie’s father, and Maddie moves into a flat with two roommates who are determined to help her live a larger life, starting with a list of actions to turn her into “The New Maddie.” But just as she’s getting a taste of independence, tragedy strikes at home and at work, and she’s forced to confront the microaggressions she faces in daily life, as well as ask herself how she deserves to be treated. The work’s ample magnetism resides in the savvy portrayal of Maddie as a complicated, sharp, and vulnerable person who is trying to figure out adulthood. Readers will revel in this. Agent: Jemima Forrester, David Higham Assoc. (Jan.)