For me, this is one of the Great American Novels for today. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds me of Smollett in terms of her dry ironic humor, her socially-accurate characterizations and her peripatetic plot. The book is a gold-mine of realistic details, poetically presented - I can extrapolate from what she says about Philadelphia, since I know Philadelphia very well having grown up there. If she's as accurate about everything else - and there's no reason to doubt her - then the words 'rich tapestry' is no cliche. I have to say my mind was blown by this book.
I seem to be on an African-related-books kick. I just finished reading "Someone Knows My Name" by African-Canadian author Lawrence Hill - an absolutely epic book, beautifully written, historically accurate - its period is the eighteenth century, with the Revolutionary War period sandwiched right in the middle, featuring the Tories for a change, as well as the African angle. Books like these can't be described, at least not by me. But I do recommend picking them up and giving them ten minutes of your time - you won't be able to put them down after that!
Before reading these two books, I read Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings, which also deals with issues around African slavery in the New World, with an added dimension of feminist and abolitionist perspectives and developments prior to the Civil War period.
I find it interesting that I'm following this thread in my reading, because I've been thinking a lot lately about my 'Moor' ancestors, who seem to have been a blend of European, African and Native American people. My memories of the influence of these relatives and 'friends of the family' help me to understand why so many of my white friends in youth thought I seemed 'different,' and why my African-American friends in Philly thought I didn't seem white. It really necessitates a shift in self-image, but the price of this shift is worth it in terms of the clarity and self-knowledge they bring.
My grandfather tried to hold on to this heritage by attending the Moorish Science Temple in Philadelphia in the 1920's and he kept things around the house, taught my mother that we trace our spiritual heritage to Egypt - and she passed these things on to me. So, it is probably about time that I started learning more about it from an adult perspective. Reading these books is part of that exploration.
The next book on my list is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.