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Cover of Maame by Jessica GeorgeMaame

by Jessica George

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Coming of Age

Maame (ma-meh) has many meanings in Twi but in my case, it means woman.

It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.

So when her mum returns from her latest trip, Maddie seizes the chance to move out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts”: She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But when tragedy strikes, Maddie is forced to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils—and rewards—of putting her heart on the line.

Discussion Guide

Headshot of Jessica George Author Biography

Jessica George was born and raised in London to Ghanaian parents and studied English Literature at the University of Sheffield. After working at a literary agency and a theatre, she landed a job in the editorial department of Bloomsbury UK. Maame is her first novel. - Macmillan Publishers

More titles by this author



For the past eight years, Maddie has been the primary caretaker for her father, who is suffering from a severe case of Parkinson's. She sacrificed her chance to move away to college, chase her dream career, and pursue a romantic relationship while her mother spent year-long stints in Ghana managing the family business, and her brother did his own thing. But when her mother returns and suggests Maddie move out while she takes care of her husband, Maddie is confronted with an adolescence's worth of milestones and no guidance on where to start. George's first novel is a new adult coming-of-age story written for a generation who has grown more accustomed to seeking out advice from strangers on the internet than from those they see every day. While there are moments when the plot feels predictable, George illustrates the complexities of navigating two cultures and rising from the pressure of other people's expectations beautifully. This is a clever and deeply moving debut.


After a loss, a young British woman from a Ghanaian family reassesses her responsibilities. Her name is Maddie, but the young protagonist in George's engaging coming-of-age novel has always been known to her family as Maame, meaning woman. On the surface, this nickname is praise for Maddie's reliability. Though she's only 25, she works full time at a London publishing house and cares for her father, who's in the late stages of Parkinson's disease. Maddie's older brother, James, has little interest in helping out, and their mother is living in Ghana and running the business she inherited from her own father. When she needs money, she always calls Maddie, who shoulders these expectations and burdens without complaint, never telling her friends about her frustrations: "We're Ghanaian, so we do things differently" is an idea that's ingrained in her. Her only confidant is Google, to whom she types desperate questions and gets only moderately helpful responses. (Google does not truly understand the demands of a religious yet remote African-born mother.) But when Maddie loses her job and tragedy strikes, she begins to question the limits of family duty and wonders what sort of life she can create for herself. With a light but firm touch, George illustrates the casual racism a young Black woman can face in the British (or American) workplace and how cultural barriers can stand in the way of aspects of contemporary life such as understanding and treating depression. She examines Maddie's awkward steps toward adulthood and its messy stew of responsibility, love, and sex with insight and compassion. The key to writing a memorable bildungsroman is creating an unforgettable character, and George has fashioned an appealing hero here: You can't help but root for Maddie's emancipation. Funny, awkward, and sometimes painful, her blossoming is a real delight to witness. A fresh, often funny, always poignant take on the coming-of-age novel. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

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.)


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In love...

For twenty-six-year-old Adelaide Williams, an American living in dreamy London, meeting Rory Hughes was like a lightning bolt out of the blue: this charming Englishman was The One she wasn’t even looking for.

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But when Max ghosts her, Nina is forced to deal with everything she's been trying so hard to ignore: her father's dementia is getting worse, and so is her mother's denial of it; her editor hates her new book idea; and her best friend from childhood is icing her out. Funny, tender, and eminently, movingly relatable, Ghosts is a whip-smart tale of relationships and modern life.

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