In the city of Enugu, Nigeria, fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, lead a privileged life. Their Papa is a wealthy and respected businessman; they live in a beautiful house; and they attend an exclusive missionary school. But, as Kambili reveals in her tender-hearted account, their home life is anything but harmonious. Her father, a fanatically religious man, has impossible expectations of his children and wife.
When Kambili’s loving and outspoken Aunty Ifeoma persuades her brother that the children should visit her in Nsukka, Kambili and Jaja take their first trip away from home. Once inside their Aunty Ifeoma’s flat, they discover a whole new world.
–from the back cover of Purple Hibiscus
When Kambili and Jaja return home changed by their newfound freedom, tension within the family escalates. And Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together after her mother commits a desperate act.
Purple Hibiscus is, admittedly, probably not a book I would have chosen to buy and read on my own terms–I love history, but aside from historical fiction based on folklore, legends, or mythologies, I tend to lean in the direction of nonfiction works. So, I’m really, really glad that this book was included on the syllabus for my English course this year.
Although first published nearly two decades ago in 2003, I found Adichie’s debut novel both so enjoyable and so impactful that I felt the need to share my reaction.
Overall, the plot is masterfully executed. The story begins in media res and thoroughly captivates the reader there. Then, Kambili’s narration goes back to explain and explore past events, and everything just unfolds beautifully. Adichie’s writing is truly some of the best I’ve encountered. Kambili’s voice and who Adichie wrote her character was, without a doubt, what I found to be the best part of the book.
The characters in general, too, have the utmost depth and complexity; there was such a multitude of beliefs, issues, and questions explored through them story and their relationships with one another. Together, they all made the novel so potent. Seriously, the care put into developing the personalities, views, and actions of these characters was incredible. And it’s what elevates the story into an entirely different level of existence. From Eugene’s morbidly fascinating character to Aunty Ifeoma’s inspiring strength to Kambili’s own development over the course of the novel, every character in the story has something to draw the reader in.
As a whole, Adichie’s exploration of faith, family, culture, and politics in Purple Hibiscus is thought-provoking, and powerfully so. Whether you’re looking for a meaningful read or simply want a genuinely good book to enjoy, Purple Hibiscus will deliver. You won’t regret choosing it!
Find and get a copy through Goodreads here!