One of my most anticipated books of 2023 has been Maame, the debut novel by Jessica George. It follows Maddie, a self-described “late bloomer,” who, at 25, is moving out for the first time. She’ll experience some exciting and rocky firsts, but she’ll also face tragedy, and these will lead her to uncovering her path forward. Maame surpassed my expectations and is one of my favorite recent reads.

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC of this book!


Since her dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years ago, Maddie has served as his primary caretaker. She’s 25 and still lives at home, and she’s missed out on a lot. When her mother comes home from Ghana, Maddie takes this opportunity to live a little. She moves out for the first time, enters into the world of dating, and pushes harder in her career. But when tragedy strikes, Maddie will be forced to reckon with where her life is at and where she wants it to be. Full of ups and downs, with humor and depth in equal measure, Maame is a late bloomer’s coming of age.


Maame is a wonderfully written and impactful novel. When it begins, Maddie is in a rut and comes across as rather naive, or at least inexperienced in many of the things most twenty-somethings go through. On the one hand, she’s responsible and caring, spending most of her free-time aiding her father, who has Parkinson’s. On the other, Maddie is observant and curious, and she often Googles how to do things: how to befriend your roommates, how to tell if a guy is interested in you, how to be happy. She’s instantly relatable, perhaps especially for Millennials and Gen Z.

But for all its whimsy, Maame also shows a young woman who is burdened by too much. Maddie is depressed, burnt out, possibly in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. Her mother and brother put too much pressure on her to care for her dad; they’re not much help themselves. Maddie’s job isn’t any better, with an unreasonable boss and an undercurrent of racism that she can’t ignore. Finally it all comes to a head, and Maddie is on the hunt for a new job, a new living situation, and a chance to finally step out of her family’s shadow.

At this point, I enjoyed seeing some of Maddie’s early wins. New roommates, possibly friends; a potential boyfriend; a better job. Things are looking up, even if her mom still nags her too much. But then the big tragedy strikes, and Maame moves in a new direction.

It’s hard to talk about the second half of Maame without revealing major spoilers. Indeed, one of my favorite aspects of it is something I should save for a book club discussion rather than a spoiler-free review. Keeping it vague, here are some of the themes that stood out as I read it:

  1. The intense pressure Maddie dealt with and that many women, in particular, often experience. Maddie’s other name is Maame, which means “woman” in Twi. But as Maddie explores later on in this novel, this name comes with expectations and burdens, and she’s been holding the family together since she was far too young. Never mind that she’s the youngest one in the family. How did she become the primary caregiver to her father? Why have finances always been up to her since she finished school? How did her mother and brother not see that she was struggling and offer to help out in some way? The pressure from her home life merges with stress surrounding her job, career path, and finances, but it also contributes to her feelings of isolation and depression.
  2. The subtle racism Maddie experiences at work and in dating. As a Black woman born to Ghanaian immigrant parents, Maddie often wonders if the treatment she receives is normal… or a product of racism. It’s troubling and exhausting, and she often wonders how best to stick up for herself.
  3. Mental health struggles, especially Maddie’s feelings of depression, guilt, and grief. Throughout Maame, Maddie is trying to find happiness, but things will get worse before they get better. The way these themes are explored is nuanced, raw, and perfectly described. Whether you or someone you know has faced such mental health battles, it feels real and relatable. Her Ghanaian culture, like so many cultures, isn’t always understanding about mental health or conducive to improving mental health. I appreciate Maddie’s discussions with her mother and (later) therapist about it.
  4. Friendship, family relationships, and dating. Maddie is navigating relationships, both new and old, and is learning to take greater control in her role within these relationships. How can she communicate her needs better? How can she let go of the people that aren’t good for her, improve her relationship with those that need work, and prioritize the ones that already provide her with the love she needs? It’s a learning process, and I loved seeing Maddie grow in all kinds of relationships.

Maame is such a heartfelt novel. It made me cry and feel the pain Maddie felt, but it also made me feel optimistic about her future. It sheds a light on the experiences of a woman who is Black and Ghanaian, living in London, and working through racism and cultural differences. Ultimately, it’s a book about coming into your own and being comfortable in your own skin.

Final Thoughts

Maame is a stunning debut that is moving, tender, raw, and hopeful. It’s deeply impactful and I loved every bit of it. This is a book I’ll recommend to everyone, and I look forward to reading more from Jessica George.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy Maame here – it’s available as a hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

Maame by Jessica George
GenreContemporary Fiction
SettingLondon, England
Number of Pages320
Format I Readebook (NetGalley)
Original Publication DateJanuary 31, 2023

Official Summary

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.

When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get 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 it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils––and rewards––of putting her heart on the line.

Smart, funny, and deeply affecting, Maame deals with the themes of our time with humor and poignancy: from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure, the complexity of love, and the life-saving power of friendship. Most important, it explores what it feels like to be torn between two homes and cultures―and it celebrates finally being able to find where you belong.

About the Author

Jessica George

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.

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