I was left with mostly confusion about this one. I think that Oyeyemi is a good writer, but since the timelines kept jumping around with Maja's remembrances I could never be sure of things. Towards the end of the book things got more simplified with Maja focusing on her pregnancy, her relationship with Aaron, and her poisoned one with her friend Amy Eleni. The book just abruptly ends leaving you with a severe case of what just happened. At least it left me with that.
I loved hearing about the African Cuban experience in Cuba as well as in London after Maja's family immigrates to Britain. However, Oyeyemi breaks up Maja's narrative by also including her mother's involvement with Santeria and also an Orisha named Yemaya Saramagua (an Orisha is a minor God in Santeria and Nigeria). house” between Cuba and Lagos. Orishas are the human form of the spirits (called Irunmoles) sent by Olorun. The Irunmọlẹ are meant to guide creation and particularly humanity on how to live and succeed on Earth Ayé. I spent most of the book confused anytime we left Maja for glimpses/looks at Yemaya Saramangua. I also spent a lot of time with Google and Wikipedia looking things up.
I realized after doing some research that Yemaya I think is also known as Yemoja who is an Orisha and the mother of all Orishas, having given birth to the 14 Yoruba gods and goddesses. She is often syncretized with either Our Lady of Regla in the Afro-Cuban or seen as various other Virgin Mary figures of the Catholic Church. Yemoja is motherly and strongly protective, and cares deeply for all her children, comforting them and cleansing them of sorrow. She is said to be able to cure infertility in women, and cowrie shells represent her wealth. So I can see why this is the Orisha that ping pongs between chapters of us readers following Maja through her first pregnancy.
I didn't really care for Maja though. She was a confusing character and I don't really know what she wanted. Throughout the book she talks of her son and having ownership of him more than the father of the baby. However, at times she doesn't seem to be interested in things related to her pregnancy (eating well or visiting the doctor). She seems fixated on returning to Cuba and I just don't know what she was looking to find there. I am not an immigrant, so I am sure that I am missing something from this book that others would be able to get a fix on. To me it just seemed her character was confused from beginning to end. And I honestly couldn't get a fix on other characters.
Maja's brother Tomas who is known throughout as the London baby (since he was not born in Cuba like Maja was) reads as half a person in this book. Tomas is not seen as Cuban since he is African and he is not seen as African since he is also Cuban. Tomas is not home sick for Cuba like Maja proclaims to be, but just wants to be somewhere that he belongs.
Maja's relationship with Aaron was also confusing. We know that Aaron is white, but was born and raised in Ghana. So he feels as if he can explain what it is to be black to Maja's father at times or take exception for not really getting what it is to be black/Ghanian. Just by the color of his skin, Aaron is privileged and doesn't really get it. We see this again and again throughout the book. Especially when he mentors three of Amy Eleni's students. I don't get her attraction to him since she doesn't seem to like him much.
Maja's messed up friendship with Amy Eleni was confusing to me too. Amy Eleni was not a good friend. She talks about Maja's pregnancy like it's not happening or seems to hope she miscarries at times. Amy Eleni has been friends with Maja since they were young, but her mother (Maja's) hasn't trusted her since she is white. And Amy Eleni also seems to have feelings for Maja that she is ignoring.
The writing was lyrical and beautiful. I just wish I could get a good sense of rhythm will reading. I think the chapters alternating from Maja and back again after a look at Yemaya Saramagua didn't really work for me at all. I started to skim most of Yemaya's chapters after a while since I kept having to look up words or people named.
The ending of the book was abrupt with us not knowing what Maja is going to do next.