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Reading the Ceiling

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Ayodele has just turned eighteen and has decided, having now reached womanhood, that the time is right to lose her virginity. She's drawn up a shortlist: Reuben, the fail safe; a long-admired school friend; abd Frederick Adams, the 42-year-old, soon-to-be-pot-bellied father of her best friend. What she doesn't know is that her choice of suitor will have a drastic effect on ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published May 8th 2007 by Simon & Schuster Ltd
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Average rating 3.41  · 
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 ·  224 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2007
This is a good book if you are doing one of those Around the World challenges and you are struggling to find a book from the Gambia (did you know it was THE Gambia?).

It's a perfect book for this sort of thing - a perfect mix of the exotic and the familiar, not too challenging, giving you just enough of insight into the culture without making you uncomfortable. It meshes the European with the African, the traditional with the modern and shows African women dancing on the fine line between the two
The premise of the book was interesting. A girl turns 18 and decides to lose her virginity on that night. She has a list of 3 possible partners.
The book then tells her story in a Sliding Doors manner; what happens depended on which partner she went with.
The three parts of the story have some common threads but the writing is quite of a different standard. The last part "The un-Named" was probably the best written but by this time I had lost interest.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I agree with the other reviews that this is a fine option if you are doing a world books challenge and need a book from the Gambia – this is why I read it, and it’s certainly readable – but there isn’t much to recommend it beyond that.

Reading the Ceiling has an interesting premise: the narrator, Ayodele, is turning 18 and determined to get initiated into the mysteries of sex, so she needs to choose a partner with whom to do the deed. The three sections of the book follow alternate versions of he
Jama Jack
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author is Gambian!

Yes, that matters to me as much as the stories she has weaved together in Reading the Ceiling. Growing up and understanding the power of representation and writing our own stories has pushed me into a year of reading works from (female) African authors only for a year.

This book is one I wished I had read in my teenage years, as I struggled to place my feet on solid ground while navigating the pressures of growing up as a teenage African girl.

Ayodele's story mattered. For
Deborah Pickstone
I had higher hopes but it is still an interesting read; we don't get so much fiction out of the African continent that we can afford to misprize it. As the book developed, so did the writing. I would expect growth as a writer in the future and look forward to reading more.
Friederike Knabe
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
On her eighteenth birthday, Ayodele decides, she will not only have a great party at the best disco in town, she will also choose a one-off mate to take her from childhood to womanhood. It is an empowering feeling and the choice is hers, not common in her society at that time. First-time Gambian novelist Dayo Forster has written a lively, fast paced and delightful novel built around an intriguing concept: three different scenarios unfold for her life, depending on the man she chooses for that fa ...more
A good read that gets you to think about all the different things that could happen in your life that hinges on that one choice
V C Willow
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I thought the idea for the book outshone the execution. The retelling of the story and the blandness of a lot of the narrative made one story mingle pretty much into the next retelling. Clearly Dayo Forster is a talented writer and a capable story teller but I simply found the style not to my personal taste. Lots of subjects were touched upon but I felt we never really got to explore the depths of any of the characters or the stories, which was a shame as it felt we were forever only skimming th ...more
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
Set in Gambia, this novel traces a young woman's choices through three alternative lives. The author catches the tone and attitudes of Ayodele as a teenager and then young and middle aged woman well. All of our choices determine both create and limit the subsequent paths of our lives. Forster explores this idea with rich characters and vivid writing.
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I read it at a point in my life when I had to make life-changing decisions without the benefit of foresight....very influential....I like the books-in-book format.........took me back to Jeffrey Archer, RL Stine and the rest.
Should be made a recommended book for high school girls.....tackles scenarios with great sensitivity and grace.....a magnificent book.
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
It is very interesting yet not deep enough. Dele's reactions in the second story are very overrated comparing to Dele of the first story, as if it were a different person. The third story is the best, I enjoyed it so much. As she said; the moral of the story is: If you want something don't half-want it, want it properly and get it.
Madhulika Liddle
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
On the morning she turns eighteen, Ayodele wakes up with one resolve: today is the day she loses her virginity. To whom, she hasn’t figured out yet. And how. Or what the consequences of that might be: all she knows is that by the time tomorrow dawns, she will be a virgin no more.

But what will happen as a result of the man Ayodele chooses for her first sexual experience will be something even she can’t foresee. At the party, three paths diverge, and the one she takes will decide where she ends up
Suzanna (TheMillennialJAReads)
I love the different aspects of Gambian culture I was exposed to through this novel, this was especially important to me because I have a personal connection to The Gambia so I need to read more literature from there.

Reading The Ceiling gave me the perfect opportunity to dip my toes in, it gives us culture, versatile storytelling, beautiful prose and life lessons. The story is narrated in first person by Ayodele, a Krio Gambian young woman who just turned 18 and is eager to enter adulthood by fi
Reading the Ceiling is told in three parts, each one starting on the night of Ayodele’s birthday and then spanning the next fifty or so years of her life. You get to see how one choice can shape Ayodele’s life but at the same time there are many things that are outside of her control. For instance, things that happen to characters around Ayodele, like tragic accidents or the choice of a university, generally happen no matter who she chose to sleep with.

The interesting thing was that while her c
Nicole Kroger Joy
3.5 stars
#readtheworld The Gambia

Ayodele is a neurotic mess (coming from someone with her fair share of neuroses). Upon deciding she wants to lose her virginity, she draws up a shortlist of her potential suitors. The book then breaks into three separate stories, each exploring her destiny following one of those three choices.

While I this gives a ridiculous amount of power to such a seemingly small decision, I think the author does well to explore each life path and the ways in which small decisi
Verena Annette
Not a bad book, not a really good book either.
I picked it up, to get an insight into the life in the Gambia, where part of this story takes place. That curiosity was satisfied.
The story itself is split into three plot lines - Ayodele decides, she wants to loose her virginity. She makes a list of men and the book tells three ways in which her life unfolds after choosing one of the guys. This idea of course isn't new or revolutionary, but it is entertaining enough. After each of the three decision
"I am on the other side of knowing, yet the answer to the mystery of how to make my life has been in me all along."

A little like My Real Children and a little like Community's "Remedial Chaos Theory" episode, but the device is used for more literary rather than speculative purposes. (Or, I guess, the device is more a literary tool than a heavyhanded thought generator, as in MRC, or a framework, as in RCT.) Forster creates three possible lives for her protagonist Ayodele, all diverging from her d
Kate Throp
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
On a role with women writers from Africa. This is sliding doors Gambian style. The protagonist goes out on her 18th birthday determined to lose her virginity and with 3 or 4 potential candidates. What follows are three paths her life could go down depending on who she chooses. Covers single motherhood, polygamy, overseas education, religion and family relations. Again 4.5.
Leslie Ann
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Solid read for my AtW challenge (The Gambia). The premise is interesting, but the third storyline was very different from the other two, which shared similar events. I liked the legend of the mermaid, whose ending changes depending on the storyteller; perhaps the tale should have been told at the beginning instead of the end.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: africana
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-the-world
The premise, that seemingly arbitrary decisions can radically change the trajectory of one's life, is promising, and there are interesting cultural tidbits scattered throughout. But the novel suffers from poor pacing and inconsistencies, ultimately making it kinda meh for me.
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: africa, gambia
Interesting concept - we all know that the whole life can take a really different take based on one spur-of-the-moment decision and thus the author evolves this novel from three different parting points in the life of 18-year-old Ayodele. I really liked the end of the book and the legend of the mermaid which might have been the author's parting point to start writing this book. I also enjoyed the details on Gambian life, food, dress, etc. very much. Unfortunately I never really cared for any of ...more
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
"I can choose to be the hunter or the lion. What will my story be?", 7 Feb. 2016

This review is from: Reading the Ceiling (Paperback)
As the novel opens on narrator Ayodele's 18th birthday, I thought this was going to be a YA tale. Discos, the opposite sex and deciding on a future occupy the young people:
"We knot ourselves into a drift of conversations, starting and ebbing. University crops up again. And what we intend to do with our lives. We talk about the moon, about whether mermaids will com
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This lovely book elaborates on the theory that a single choice can impact the rest of your life. Within "Reading the Ceiling" we are taken through three possible life stories of the narrator, Ayodele. She not only shifts and changes, but also her community, social life, and the relationships with those dear to her. I found myself getting more attached to certain storylines and characters than others, but not a particular version of the story. I enjoyed the everchanging perspectives on life Ayode ...more
Apr 05, 2010 added it
The story is an interesting concept - very "Sliding Doors." The main character is a strong woman - which I adored. But the formula also prevented me, as a reader, from becoming involved with any of her various "paths." Thus, I didn't find myself caring deeply when emotional events occurred that should have wrenched my heart. Very detached the whole way through - which is a shame.
Aug 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, OK so the concept is not very original but it did make me wonder about the choices I made at 18 and where I would be now if things had worked out differently. If only the 3 stories of Ayodele were applicable to life!!! It frustrated me that I didn't know enough about each section, but well worth a read.
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
I usually skew towards nonfiction, so last year I decided to make an effort to read more fiction. I picked this up based on the reviews here on Goodreads.

The author is a good writer, I like her exposition and dialogue. The story itself I was not a fan of. Maybe her other works will be more my style.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
Each part of this triptych imagines a young woman choosing a different first lover, and how her life's path changes based on that choice. The stories give a glimpse into the dreams of this young woman, and in none of those dreams is she entirely her own person.
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good read about how one decision can change the course of the future. The book looks at three possible parallel universes following Ayodele making a decision at the age of 18. Would recommend it!
Apr 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, fall-15-16
Well-intentioned but very bland. Not really like Sliding Doors at all, rather three separate stories with interchangeable people. Can be used for The Gambia in a country reading quest, but there's very little to distinguish the setting from any country in Africa, or in the world for that matter.
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Dayo Forster was born in Gambia and now lives in Kenya. She has published a short story in Kwani? and was one of 12 African writers selected as a participant at the 2006 Caine Prize Writer’s Workshop. The story produced as a result of the workshop was published in a Caine Prize anthology in July 2006. Her short story in Kwani? led her to write her first novel, which will be published early 2008.


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