The thing about ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’

Books reviews are the holy grail of reviews. The thing about writing books and plays is that the literature is purely reliant on the strength of the characters that are created and refined by their creator – writers and directors. Characters are created to depict themes. So the character has to be as vivid as he is alive. If he looks and smells like a rat, then he does need to look and smell like a rat. So as a book reviewer, I feel that it takes plenty of authority to separate the writer from his characters, then slaughter or praise his characters before doing the same to their creator.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we all know who she is, right? Celebrated African writer, academician. And a real piece of African beauty. Critically, ‘she has been called “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young Anglophone authors [that] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature”‘.

In all honesty speaking, I have never been a fan of the African writers. Themes around tribalism, colonialism, the girl child among other ills that plague the continent are rife in these literary works. So I keep a wide berth with these writings. But what Wikipedia says up there about Chimamanda ‘succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature’ could not have been more accurate.

‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, like a majority of my book collection, was a recommendation from a pal. Short stories not greater than a few pages long, my copy had excellent/large double space font and it was just 12 stories long. 12 short stories.

I set off with ‘Cell One’ as I waited for my brother in the car. It was raining on this day, and I devoured at the contents as I patiently sat alone on this cold May evening. Humour, vivid imagery, easy story telling – I was quickly sold. So I continued to read. I read it as I sat in the patients’ room of Nairobi Hospital as I waited to see a Dr. Osoro, patient no. 001. I read as I lazed around in the Sunday afternoon sun, my unwashed behind and hangover threatening to overrule the day. I read before going to bed, when the story timely came to an end just as the drowsiness checked in. It was bliss.

I found my favourite in ‘Tomorrow Is Too Far‘, appreciated the tragedy of ‘The Monday of Last Week’. I was amused by the jugs (pitchers) and biscuits (cookies) of ‘The Arrangers of Marriage’, cracked a rib at the descriptions in ‘Jumping Monkey Hill’ of “Kenyans and Tanzanians looking ordinary, almost indistinguishable”; and the thing about the jungus face looking like “God had slapped him flat against a wall and smeared his features all over his face”. The likes of such wry humour reverberated in every story.

Chimamanda paints poignant lurid pictures of rustic characters speaking in Igbo. The stories are narrated easily – prose was excellent, the tone set in the first few lines of the story. Her style of delving into the past and future of the characters from one stand point was flawlessly executed. There’s also something I noted with a smile, something that she does effortlessly in a majority of the stories – she doesn’t complete them. She sort of, uhm, just stops writing? Yes, she stops.

Sadly, I got disinterested somewhere amidst all the fun fare of the Igbo and cassava rice.

There was a both a drag and a pull to the stories with their recurrent themes around women, Nigeria and America – Women in Nigeria, shift from Nigeria to America, then America and the Nigerians, of Nigerian women. Themes like sexual harassment, death, regret and post-war tribulations were now jaded. So naturally, I gave it a rest. The thing about change and rest, yes?

But I did have a long queue of unfinished books. A most bad habit of the busy, greedy mind.

Right before the year came to a close, I reached for the book one last time. Surely, I had been reading the book for over six months now. I did something that I would later look back on and smile about – I didn’t take stock of the stories, of how many I had left or of what the story I had read last spoke about. So I opened the book with that guilt free where-were-we feeling and started on ‘The Headstrong Historian’.

The drums slowly started to beat as soon as I crossed the bridge of the flashback with the lines ‘From the moment she first saw him at a wrestling match….’ The story spans 3 centuries and 3 generations. The title is apt and its relevance evenly split in the three broad generations that the story traverses. The storyline is nostalgic of Margaret Ogolla’s Akoko of ‘River and the Source’.
And beautifully the story, and the book, is brought to a close as Grace ‘held her grandmother’s hand, the palm thickened from years of making pottery’.

My recommendation? Read the book. As for me, I am off to collect her other works; the Chimamanda drums are still beating in my head.

Thought to let you know:
This review was the first book review I ever penned. I wrote this on 1 January 2013. I remember the timing impeccably because I archived the book as soon as I finished reading it then hit the blank page guns blazing. The excitement to get a hold of some of her earlier work reeks in the review, doesn’t it?

Kwani? Trust: In conversation with Nuruddin Farah
Special feature: Happy birthday brah

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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