Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published: 2003, Algonquin Books
Genre: historical fiction
Accolades: 2005 - Commonwealth Writers Prize, 2004 - shortlist Orange Prize, 2004 - longlist Booker Prize
Set in Nigeria during the Abacha military regime of the mid-1990s, Purple Hibiscus is a coming-of-age story centering around, Kambili, the daughter of a wealthy newspaper publisher and benefactor to the community and church. To everyone, even family, Kambili, her brother Jaja, and their mother appear to have it all, but what they really have is a religiously fanatic father who enforces his Christian beliefs with physical abuse and horribly punishes them for what he considers heathen-like behavior. It isn’t until they spend a week in the home of their Auntie and cousins that Kambili and Jaja begin to really understand the beauty of their native religion and that there could possibly be other choices,other ways to live.This was the first book that I read by Adichie and I keep wondering what took me so long. Written in first person narrative Adichie captures the innocence of Kambili as she maneuvers through the terror of her world. The vivid details of the abuse was staggering:
"He lowered the kettle into the tub, tilted it toward my feet. He poured the hot water on my feet, slowly, as if he were conducting an experiment and wanted to see what would happen...The pain of contact was so pure, so scalding, I felt nothing for a second. And then I screamed." page 194
For all the heart ache and pain that Kambili experiences what is most amazing is that this book is about hope and strength. The courage of the Nigerian people as they try to survive the atrocites of the Abache military regime are mirrored in Kambili's young life. Adichie paints such vivid imagery of the Nigerian culture and landscape that you can almost feel the sweat running down your back and taste the sweet mango as you walk in the market place with Kambili.
Purple Hibiscus is simply a beautiful and powerful novel that should not be missed.