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Louisa Onomé’s Like Home is a breath of fresh air that reminds us of our childhood days and fond memories. Chinelo, or Nelo, a Nigerian Canadian, loves her beloved neighborhood, Ginger East, Toronto, and is happy with the way things are. But things changed after an arcade homicide, which has painted the community in a bad light since then. Many of her close friends started to migrate to nearby places, except Kate (Nelo’s best friend), whose store has been a staple to the area. After her store gets vandalized, Nelo fears that she will leave, too. Moreover, new stores have been moving in, gentrifying the community and displacing businesses. As Nelo regards these changes as harmful to her neighborhood, she finds a way to overcome them and stand for Ginger East, her home.
The book hooked me right from the cover till the end. The prose is very readable, and all the characters are given a lot of insight. Nelo was like a reflection of myself, and her youthful, sensible voice kept me invested in the book. I also adored Bo, Rafa, Kate, and Mr. Brown since each of them had a distinct personality and a story to contribute. I also liked how the author pressed on the concept of how change can be good and acceptable, and resisting it could only hurt you more. Likewise, Nelo learns to accept reality and realizes that changes aren’t always bad. Other themes of the book, like gentrification, stereotypes, and friendship dynamics, were closely examined without stagnating the flow of the story.
One memorable thing about the book is the connection between Nelo and her friends. The text messages and their banter made me giggle here and there, and their friendship was so authentic, which is quite rare these days. The closing was well-crafted, presenting a good vibe for the readers at the end. It left me thinking about Nelo and her friends long after the last page. Overall, it is a great debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from Onomé.
Reviewed by Sruthi, Twin Hickory Library