The narrative returns to Ugwu. Ugwu clears up after Odenigbo and his guests have lunch, and he sucks on the leftover chicken bones. Then he does his homework for school. He remembers his teacher telling Odenigbo that he will probably skip a grade, as he has “such an innate intelligence.” Ugwu lusts after Olanna to himself, and is now glad that she lives with them. Odenigbo’s mother is about to come to visit.
Despite his poor, superstitious upbringing, Ugwu is one of the most naturally intelligent characters of the book. His growth from an uneducated, lustful boy to a hardened, intelligent man is one of the novel’s main arcs. Ugwu has now extended his loyalty to Olanna as well as Odenigbo, though he still sexualizes her.
Ugwu has been amused by Richard lately, as Richard has been asking him questions about his village and wants to go see the ori-okpa festival there. Ugwu starts to cook dinner but then the doorbell rings. It is Ugwu’s Aunty, who says that his mother is very sick and he must come home. Aunty waits until Odenigbo comes home, and then tells him that she must take Ugwu.
Richard still acts like the white people Mohammed mocked, “gawking at everyday things.” Whenever Ugwu’s village life touches his life with Odenigbo, Adichie is able to juxtapose these drastically different worlds.
Odenigbo scoffs at Aunty’s description of Ugwu’s mother’s illness, and he offers to drive both Aunty and Ugwu to the village, pick up Ugwu’s mother, and take her to Dr. Patel. As they drive in Opi, Odenigbo complains about the corruption in the Nigerian government. When they reach the village, Ugwu’s father comes out and bows to Odenigbo, thanking him profusely. The village children gather around Odenigbo’s car and touch it in awe.
What is a life-threatening disaster or a long journey for the people of Opi is just a quick car ride and a doctor’s visit for the people of Nsukka. Odenigbo’s constant cultural commentary allows Adichie to keep the political unrest in Nigeria present amidst her individual dramas.
Odenigbo follows Ugwu into his hut to see his mother. Ugwu is suddenly reluctant to have Odenigbo touch his mother, as Odenigbo knows nothing about her, but Odenigbo helps her to his car. They return to Odenigbo’s house and Olanna greets them. Ugwu makes pepper soup for dinner while Dr. Patel treats his mother.
Ugwu’s idolization of Odenigbo suddenly slips when Odenigbo approaches his mother and Ugwu’s two worlds collide. Odenigbo doesn’t seem so all-knowing and brilliant in the world of Opi.
After a while Olanna comes into the kitchen and tells Ugwu that his mother had an infection, but she should be fine now. The next day his mother feels better, and she is grateful to the doctor but complains about the smell of toothpaste in everyone’s mouth. She is impressed when Ugwu shows her around the grounds and the house, and Ugwu wishes his whole village were there to live with him in the comfort of the house. Ugwu’s mother thanks Odenigbo but then quickly sets off to return home.
What was a life-threating “fire in her chest” in Opi is just an infection in Nsukka. Ugwu’s mother doesn’t share Ugwu’s idolization of Odenigbo’s modernity – she is grateful for his help, but happy to return to her own sphere. Now that his two lives have brushed against each other, Ugwu sees how hard life is in Opi and he wishes he could share some of Odenigbo’s luxuries.
On the day Odenigbo’s mother will arrive Ugwu is cooking peppery rice. Jomo compliments the smell and then complains about Harrison. Ugwu always listens sympathetically to both Jomo and Harrison’s rants about each other. Then Odenigbo’s mother arrives, and Ugwu greets her. She has brought a young woman named Amala with her. Odenigbo’s mother immediately marches into the kitchen and commandeer’s Ugwu’s cooking, which starts to irritate Ugwu.
Odenigbo’s mother is also a “village woman” like Ugwu’s mother. Odenigbo’s past is never explained, but he clearly now lives in a whole different sphere from his mother and the setting of his childhood. Amala is a silent helper to Odenigbo’s mother, someone poor and lower class even within Abba (where Odenigbo is from).
Olanna comes home and greets Odenigbo’s mother, who immediately says “I hear you did not suck your mother’s breasts” and accuses Olanna of being a witch. She starts yelling to the neighbors that there is a witch in her son’s house. Olanna stands there in shock and then leaves to go back to her apartment. When she is gone Odenigbo’s mother acts satisfied, and she says Olanna is over-educated and comes from a bad family.
Odenigbo’s mother (whom the characters refer to as “Mama”) shares Odenigbo’s confident, domineering character, but she lacks his progressive ideas – condemning Olanna’s “witchcraft” just like Odenigbo condemns colonial oppression.
Ugwu is very irritated but he decides to just agree with Odenigbo’s mother to make her stop talking. He is frightened when she says she is going to consult a dibia (a kind of medicine man) though, and he worries for Olanna’s safety. Ugwu then leaves and goes to find Odenigbo. He tells Odenigbo what happened, and Odenigbo decides to go home first instead of finding Olanna.
Ugwu is still very superstitious, and we see again how he doesn’t think Odenigbo understands everything – especially within the world of magic and ritual, the world Odenigbo’s mother belongs to. There is a significance to Odenigbo choosing his mother over Olanna, even in the order of his visits.