Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus. Anchor Books, 2003.
Reason read: September is Adichie’s birth month. Read in her honor. Additionally, for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge I needed a book by a Nigerian author.
This is another one of those books for young people where the subject matter is so frank and at times, very brutal.
One teenage girl’s recollections of a violent childhood with a father so religious he beats impropriety out of his wife and children on a regular basis. Papa Eugene’s religious zeal steals a relationship with his own father; refusing to let him see the family for any length of time because Papa-Nnukwu worships differently than Catholic. In Eugene’s eyes, anything other than Catholic is equal to pagan. Even though Kambili lives in fear of her father, she is starved for his approval and affection. Rules: English as a language is civilized, Igbo is not. Coming in second in school is not allowed. Sports are not allowed. Shorts are not allowed. Makeup is not allowed. Consorting with the devil is not allowed, even if that “devil” is your own grandfather. As children, Kambili and her brother Jaja got to pick the weapon Papa would use to violently beat them. Even Kambili and Jaja’s mother is not immune to monstrous beatings. Somehow, despite this strictness, Kambili and Jaja are allowed to spend a week with Papa’s sister, Aunty Ifeoma. It’s their first time away from home and their last time experiencing life as they knew it.
Confessional: I wanted to read this book cover to cover in one sitting. I was riveted to the drama.
Lines I liked, “I was stained by failure” (p 39), “We did not scale the rod because we believed we could, we scaled it because we were terrified that we couldn’t” (p 226).
Author fact: Adichie has been compared to Gabriel Garcia Maquez. She is a Commonwealth Writers Prize winner and also wrote Half of a Yellow Sun and The Thing Around Your Neck. Both books are on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: the title of the book comes from the beautiful purple hibiscus flowers aunty grows in her garden. They are a symbol of defiant freedom from religious oppression.
Playlist: “Ave Maria”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, Fela, Osadebe, and Onyeka.
Nancy said: Pearl said that “Kambili is a character who will remain with you long after the last page of this beautiful and heartrending novel is turned” (p 157 Book Lust To Go).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Nigeria” (p 156).