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A Quarter-Life Crisis Handled With Grace and Guts

Diana Ejaita In “Maame,” a young woman strives for independence while carrying the weight of her family's world. MAAME, by Jessica George You can get a sense of Maddie Wright's life from her Google searches, which pop up regularly throughout Jessica George's sparkling debut novel, “Maame.” Here are a few windows on her worried soul: “Is Parkinson's disease genetic?”; “Jobs with the happiest employees”; “Back pain in your mid-20s”; “How long do guys wait before asking a girl out on a date?” The results are complicated for Maddie, the London-born daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, who, at the outset, appears hopelessly gridlocked between filial duty and adulthood. While her fellow 25-year-olds are pursuing the holy grail of fulfilling employment, respectable paychecks, their own digs, and meaningful companionship (not necessarily in that order), Maddie takes care of her 57-year-old father, who has Parkinson's. This isn't cozy, blanket-tucking companionship; it's nitty-gritty caregiving with all the stress that bubbles over when the buck stops with you. Maddie prepares his snacks and meals before leaving for work, coordinates with her dad's caregiver, and relays news of his worsening condition to her too-busy brother and absentee mother, who bounces between England and Ghana while overseeing a family business and an extracurricular relationship. George paints this untenable situation in bold, bright strokes, arming Maddie with a quiet power that almost (but not quite) erases your sympathy for her. Then something terrible happens on a rare occasion when Maddie's dad is her mom's responsibility. […]

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