Summary: Chapter 52

Obinze teases Ifemelu for checking her blog on her phone over lunch. After a disappointing meal at an Italian restaurant, Ifemelu buys fried plantains from a market seller, who encourages her to get akara as well. Ifemelu admires that the woman is selling exactly what she makes, not a name brand or location.

When Obinze drops Ifemelu off, she tells him she’s tired of ignoring their attraction and upset that Obinze kisses her and then goes home to his wife. Obinze asks if she’s still with Blaine, and she points out that he’s married. Ifemelu brings up Zemaye’s article on how to tell if a man is cheating. Obinze insists this doesn’t feel like cheating. Ifemelu points out that no man thinks cheating feels like cheating. Obinze storms out of her flat, but returns a few minutes later, apologizing. He doesn’t like to talk about their relationship as if it’s just sex. Ifemelu agrees. They sleep together and, for the first time, Ifemelu understands the phrase “making love.”

Summary: Chapter 53

Ifemelu is so in love she feels like a cliché. However, the reality that Obinze is married looms. Obinze offers to cook for Ifemelu, commenting that Kosi doesn’t like the idea of him cooking. He makes excuses for his marriage, explaining how vulnerable he had felt at that point in his life. Furious, Ifemelu says she plans to interview the wealthy man he dislikes. Obinze protests that she said she wasn’t going to do that. They eat dinner, and Obinze reminds her that they love each other. He invites her to come with him on his trip to Abuja. Later, Obinze texts that he should go to Abuja alone because he needs to think things through. Ifemelu texts back that he’s a coward.

When she returns from the salon, Obinze is parked in front of Ifemelu’s flat. He tells her he needs time to think. Ifemelu is furious that he resorts to using empty words and tells him to go to hell.

Summary: Chapter 54

In Abuja, Obinze thinks of Ifemelu. He realizes he’s afraid of disrupting his life with Kosi, even though he doesn’t even like his life with her very much. He calls Ifemelu multiple times, but she does not answer.

Back in Lagos, Obinze prepares to go out to dinner with Kosi for Nigel’s birthday. When he sees Buchi, he remembers how Kosi apologized for having a daughter. He had been disoriented from being newly rich when he started dating Kosi and liked her predictability. That night, Kosi tries to initiate sex, but Obinze refuses. The next day, he tells Kosi he wants a divorce. Kosi argues his family is his responsibility. She reveals that she knows he’s seeing Ifemelu, and he’s humiliated that she knew all along.

Kosi insists he attend their friend’s christening party the next day, laying out matching blue outfits for the whole family. Obinze feels like a coward for playing along with the charade. Bored and annoyed by the party, he confides in his friend that he wants to divorce Kosi and marry Ifemelu. His friend chastises him that getting divorced is white person behavior.

Summary: Chapter 55

Ifemelu watches as the male peacock that lives near her flat performs his mating dance. The female rejects him, and he looks ridiculous. Ifemelu wants to tell Obinze about it. She mourns losing Obinze. She doesn’t doubt his love but believes his sense of duty keeps him from following his heart. Ranyinudo encourages her to date, but instead, Ifemelu throws herself into her blog.

Obinze appears at the door of Ifemelu’s flat. He has written her a letter explaining that he does not want their separation to shadow their lives. He will divorce Kosi but continue to help raise Buchi. He echoes the words he said at Kayode’s party all those years ago: “I’m chasing you.” Ifemelu invites him in.

Analysis: Chapters 52–55

Ifemelu’s praise of the plantain seller reflects her desire to be with Obinze without pretenses. Ifemelu admires that the woman sells exactly what she makes without pretense, which contrasts with the Italian restaurant she and Obinze came from that makes money by selling the idea of Italy. When they return to her flat, Ifemelu propositions Obinze directly, asking for what she wants without trying to disguise her desire as being anything but desire, similar to how the plantain seller does not try to embellish what her plantains are. Her satisfaction with simple plantains and dislike of false but fancy Italian food hints at trouble to come in her relationship with Obinze. As things stand, even if they act on their honest desires, they cannot be together honestly if Obinze is married to Kosi. If Obinze is a married man, no matter what language they may use to excuse their relationship, it will be an affair.

Kosi’s response to Obinze’s cheating emphasizes the difference between her and Ifemelu and the ways she embodies the superficiality of Lagos. Kosi values appearances and consistency over turbulent honesty, which recalls Aunty Onenu’s foolish preference for Doris’s obsequiousness over Ifemelu’s constructive criticism. Kosi, like Aunty Onenu, would rather pull herself deeper into a fantasy of success, dressing her family alike, than speak honestly with Obinze about his feelings and desires. The value Kosi places on the appearance of success and happiness sets up as a foil for Ifemelu because Ifemelu’s entire selfhood is based on brutal but productive honesty. The association of Kosi with pretense and Ifemelu with truth means that Obinze’s choice between Kosi and Ifemelu is also a choice about how he wants to live. He can pick comfort with Kosi, who fits into Lagos society, or his honest feelings with Ifemelu.

Although Ifemelu would prefer Obinze in her life, the life she has created for herself is independent of Obinze’s love, which shows that she has truly grown into herself. The self she created in America involved embracing her Nigerianness, first by reclaiming her accent and then her hair. This self-love shows that she has found a way to appreciate herself without Obinze’s approval. She has built a new opportunity for herself and her friends through her blog, which she has kept independent from the influence of financial backers. Her friendship with Ranyinudo can handle difficult conversations, such as the one about the blog post, meaning that she has real friends she can count on and be honest with. Finally, she has chosen heartbreak over a dishonest life with Obinze, meaning that she values herself and her independence over romance. Though she feels sad, she doesn’t regret this decision, and makes no attempt to apologize or make amends for what she believes is the right decision for her life. Ifemelu’s willingness to set the terms for their relationship proves that she sees herself as a complete person without Obinze.

Obinze’s decision to leave Kosi for Imfemulu marks the triumph of an authentic life over one of superficial ease. Notably, Obinze moves out of the house he shares with Kosi and begins the divorce process independently of whether Ifemelu accepts his advances or not. Ifemelu has spurred Obinze to change the superficiality in his life, and he has decided this change in and of itself will be a reward, regardless of his romantic success with Ifemelu. When Obinze considers the effect of his divorce on Buchi, he decides that she eventually will realize her parents do not love each other, which he considers worse than divorce because she will feel her life has not been real. Obinze trusts in honesty’s power to create the kind of life that he longs for. Ifemelu, as a representative of honesty and truth, invites Obinze into her flat because she can fully trust in Obinze’s desire to build an honest life together.