By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Completed July 11, 2011
In her debut novel, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie engrosses her reader with the story of 15-year-old Kambili, a young girl living in Nigeria under the abusive rule of her father, Eugene. Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, are forced to live in the strictest of circumstances – punished physically and emotionally for the smallest of infractions – all while their country goes to hell in a handbasket.
The siblings get a reprieve when their Aunty Ifeoma invites them to her house for a holiday. There, Kambili and Jaja see a more loving home where children can make mistakes and express their opinions. It’s an eye-opening stay for them both. It added more rebellion to Jaja’s ways, and it showed Kambili a different kind of Catholicism, led by her friendship with a young priest. When the two returned home, they struggled to live under their father’s oppressive rule.
Let’s talk a moment about Eugene, who I call “Asshole.” A jerk to his wife and kids, he was the pinnacle of charity to his community, often paying for other children’s education and donating large sums of money to the Church. He also funded the only Nigerian newspaper that spoke out against dictatorship, and his views on democracy were quite enlightened. While his public persona was admirable, his private life was disgusting. The way he treated his wife and children were unforgiveable. Charity begins at home, Asshole.
Don’t let this ugly character dissuade you. Purple Hibiscus is a stunning story. Adichie is magical in her writing, transporting her readers to Nigeria with just a few sentences. I could smell the flowers, taste the food and see the landscape. She adeptly mixes her native tongue into the dialogue – all without losing the reader. She’s astonishingly talented for such a young woman.
I can’t recommend Purple Hibiscus enough. You will learn a lot about Nigerian culture, and be moved by the story and characters. If you haven’t read stories by Adichie, this is a good place to start. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. ( )