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Last Updated on August 16, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 802


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Ada is the protagonist of the novel; all of the voices that speak in the novel are hers. Her father prays her into existence and gives her a name “with all the god in it.” Ada is born a baby occupied by ogbanje: spirits or deities that reside in her mind and that can be cruel tricksters. As Ada grows, she begins to identify these ogbanje through their different voices, often conflicting with them and the things they make her do. Despite one ogbanje’s attempt to kill her, Ada defies the odds and stays alive, even though she was never meant to survive her infancy. Ada contains multiple identities and struggles to form a coherent sense of self amid this fragmentation. She is raised in Nigeria and attends university in the United States; she is assigned the female gender at birth but is more comfortable presenting as male; she is physically a single person, but her mind holds many voices; she is made of mortal flesh, but within her exist immortal deities. Ada’s internal conflict, which causes much pain and self-destructive behavior, drive’s the novel’s plot as Ada struggles to learn who she is and what it means to be human.


Asughara, one of the ogbanje who dwell within Ada, is born in the aftermath of Ada’s rape; though she has been part of Ada since the beginning, Ada has not needed her until this moment. Asughara is all the things Ada is not: loud, sassy, opinionated, hard, cruel, and hedonistic. Tasked with the sole purpose of protecting Ada from ever being hurt again, Asughara takes her duty to the extreme, even deciding that Ada would be safer dead than alive. Asughara is the voice behind Ada’s self-destructive behaviors (self-harm, drinking, sexual promiscuity with cruel men, an eating disorder, a suicide attempt). Ada fluctuates between being grateful for Asughara and wanting her gone, and the tension between them is often the source of what Ada considers to be her “madness.”

Saint Vincent

Saint Vincent is one of the ogbanje who live in the “marble room” of Ada’s mind. Unlike Asughara, he is quiet, soft, and gentle. He is masculine in his presentation and encourages Ada to explore the side of herself that is attracted to women. He encourages the changes Ada makes to her body in order to present more masculinely, and he sometimes serves as a mediator in the fights that take place between Ada and Asughara.


The “We” voice contains all of the voices that comprise Ada. It is by far the most lyrical and incantatory voice in the book, evoking mythology and lore to explain what is happening to Ada. It is mostly observational, never forcing Ada to take action as Asughara does but rather reporting objectively on Ada’s life. It is almost godlike in its knowledge and therefore acts as the link between Ada’s human body and the ogbanje.


Soren is a Danish volleyball player whom Ada meets while attending college in Virginia. He has nightmares from a traumatic childhood, and his anger emerges through his tendency to overcontrol and micromanage. Ada declines his sexual advances, but one evening, Soren tells Ada she needs birth control pills. Slowly, Ada begins to understand that Soren has been raping her in her sleep. This trauma gives birth to Asughara.


Ada meets Ewan, an Irish tennis player, while the two are in college. Because Ewan has a girlfriend, however, they never formally date. Instead they see each other off and on, but after Ada graduates, Ewan finally breaks up with his girlfriend, and they attempt a true relationship. They eventually wed, but because Asughara is so intent on protecting Ada, Ewan begins to feel as though Ada is always withholding something from him. Their marriage quickly decays, ending in divorce.


Saachi is Ada’s mother. Though she is absent for much of Ada’s childhood, she is attuned to Ada in ways that others are not, and she sees how very sick Ada is when Ada’s depression and self-harming behavior are at their most intense. Fearful of what Saachi might do to interfere with her plan, Asughara has Ada close Saachi off from her life, denying her access to the doctors who are treating her. Saachi lives with Añuli in Arizona.


Saul is Ada’s father, the man who prayed Ada into existence. When he kills the python in the bathroom when Ada is a child, he saves Ada from death and thus unknowingly condemns her to a life filled with the suffering and pain of coexisting with ogbanje. Self-involved and prideful, he is happy with his life as a doctor in Nigeria and stays firmly rooted there as Saachi travels the world.