Chinelo Okparanta's Under the Udala Trees
Sometimes when a book ends up on a ton of best-of-the-year lists, it's kind of pretentious and dense, but this one was extremely readable and compelling. It's the coming of age story of a young woman in Nigeria, starting during their brief civil war, when her mother sends her away--and she falls in love with another refugee, who's not only from the enemy side, but is also a girl. Yup, just when you think you're getting a harrowing war story, you are instead getting a lesbian coming of age story! (Not that parts of it aren't harrowing--Nigeria isn't exactly gay-friendly, and most of this book takes place in the 70s.) Protagonist Ijeoma is great, she feels really REAL and I honestly just loved her. I found her relationship with her mother--and particularly both of their relationships with Christianity--to be fascinating. Deservedly on many best of the year lists. My list is more FAVORITES than "best," but this is definitely one of the best-crafted and best-told books I have read this year. A.