Rootless is Appiah’s debut novel and it’s an accomplished rollercoaster of emotions. I had been in a review rut – nothing I’d chosen on Netgalley had really done it for me recently and I always feel a bit guilty when this happens as I do try to give positive feedback when I can.
Thank goodness, then, that this was immediately engaging and drew me into the story from the start. We open with Sam finding that his wife Efe has disappeared, leaving him to look after their daughter alone while he tries to track her down. Each chapter that follows is a flashback, starting from when Efe and Sam meet and counting down to what we think will be an explanation of the opening scene. Where has Efe gone and why?
What follows is a story that takes its time, exploring issues surrounding immigration, race relations, marriage, expectations, parenting and being parented, post-natal depression, art, careers and more. As a reader you find yourself rooting (pun intended) for both Efe and Sam at different times (though mainly Efe by the second half for me) The book takes place in London and in Ghana, and involves a supporting cast of Sam and Efe’s family and friends, who have a range of issues and interweaving issues themselves and aren’t just there to serve the main.
There were some obvious places the plot could have gone and it was a relief that this didn’t always happen, but the ending, when you realise what’s going to happen, is pretty devastating. Both the main characters were very real to me, especially Efe who was so delicately written, you had to seek out her thoughts from her actions and I thought she was excellently portrayed.
I enjoyed this, and polished it off very quickly. It’s a deftly written debut with well rounded characterisation and an observant eye on the realities of modern relationships and the clash of expectations.
Rootless is published by HarperCollins on 16 March.