I’m developing a true appreciation of short stories. I’ve only started reading them regularly in the last year or so. I don’t feel as connected to the characters of as invested in them as I do with a novel, but each phrase, each action because so much more important in a short piece. I jumped at the chance to review The Best American Short Stories 2011. “Ceiling” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the first selection in the anthology.

Obinze is the main character in “Ceiling.” He’s a married man living in Lagos, Nigeria. He’s one of those guys that has it all, beautiful wife and child, nice house, money, fancy car, but he’s just not content.

He was tired. It was not a physical fatigue—he used his treadmill regularly and felt better than he had in years—but a draining lassitude that numbed the margins of his mind.

His feelings are brought home to him by an e-mail from his college sweetheart, the one who gave him the nickname Ceiling. He’s no longer in love with his wife and paints a too perfect picture of this woman from his past. He’s more or less unfulfilled by his “perfect” life.

I found Obinze rather annoying actually. I’m sure I was supposed to sympathize with him but I didn’t. He kind of fell into his position, but we don’t get an idea of who he wishes he was, of who he had been in England before he was deported. And the story doesn’t really go anywhere. We meet his wife, a servant, the shallow people in his life, but in the end he’s still just wondering where his life could have been had different choices been made.

Obviously it wasn’t my favorite story of all time, but it was well-written and it did give me a glimpse into a culture entirely different from my own. It was originally published in Granta.

Pre-order The Best American Short Stories 2011 at Amazon or an Indie Bookstore.

3 out of 5 stars

John hosts Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.

Book source: Review copy


  • I read a story by Adichei last year called Quality Street. It’s also about someone being changed by being away at university in a foreign country. As a theme, it certainly could be a powerful statement about how fragile our values and personalities are. Then, it has to be written well to accomplish this or make it interesting.

    I wonder how Adichie feels about internet, bringing those world views and opinions to the home instead of having to travel to discuss other values.

  • I have read and reviewed 3 stories and I enjoyed all three. “Quality Street”, “The Headstrong Historian”, and “A Private Experience” I would encourage you to try one or more of those and see what you think. There are all social commentary pieces and can be found free, online.

    Today I reviewed a short story by a fellow Book Blogger.

  • J

    I also liked “The Headstrong Historian,” as Teddy stated. I’ll have to read this story in Granta since I don’t have the new BASS yet. I was wondering what the other selected stories were this year?

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