In looking over my Goodreads reading challenge, I realize that this year’s CBR is off to a really strong start. Maybe I’m choosing books I’m fairly certain I’ll like…? (Either way, the next book in the queue may be one I’m on the fence about, but that’s for Review #7). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came highly recommended to me, and after reading Purple Hibiscus, I’m going to get my hands on all her books and recommend her to EVERYBODY.
Purple Hibiscus follows the coming of age of Kambili, a fifteen-year-old girl living in contemporary Nigeria. Her family is wealthy, and her father is an influential businessman in the community. He’s also a repressive and religiously strict man who rules his family with an iron and supposedly godly fist. The story unfolds in three parts: Palm Sunday’s showdown, before Palm Sunday, and after Palm Sunday. It’s a brilliant setup, because you know the conflict, and then you find out how it occurred in the first place. Kambili is a naive, repressed girl, and it takes the educational acumen and insight of her widowed aunt and enlightened cousins to start cracking the walls of blindly religious devotion that have sheltered Kambili from an existence greater or more meaningful than the one she dreamed. But the price may be unthinkable.
This is a gorgeously written but heartbreaking book. Adichie demonstrates the incredibly high stakes for Kambili and her family, but she also does not demonize those who choose religious affiliations. This is an important book in so many ways: it provides new insight into the contemporary family; it explains the kinds of tensions that arise when old and new worlds collide in formerly third-world countries, particularly in matters of tradition; and it tracks the coming-of-age from a global perspective. I plan to teach this novel as much as humanly possible.