Purple Hibiscus [NOOK Book]

Overview

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a ...
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Purple Hibiscus

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Overview

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The author's straightforward prose captures the tragic riddle of a man who has made an unquestionably positive contribution to the lives of strangers while abandoning the needs of those who are closest to him. —John Hartl
The Washington Post
Adichie is at her best in giving the traumatized Kambili a playful individual dignity that challenges the humorless power-mongering of her father and her country's dictators. — Bill Broun
Publishers Weekly
By turns luminous and horrific, this debut ensnares the reader from the first page and lingers in the memory long after its tragic end. First-person narrator Kambili Achike is a 15-year-old Nigerian girl growing up in sheltered privilege in a country ravaged by political strife and personal struggle. She and her brother, Jaja, and their quiet mother, who speaks "the way a bird eats, in small amounts," live this life of luxury because Kambili's father is a wealthy man who owns factories, publishes a politically outspoken newspaper and outwardly leads the moral, humble life of a faithful Catholic. The many grateful citizens who have received his blessings and material assistance call him omelora, "The One Who Does for the Community." Yet Kambili, Jaja and their mother see a side to their provider no one else does: he is also a religious fanatic who regularly and viciously beats his family for the mildest infractions of his interpretation of an exemplary Christian life. The children know better than to discuss their home life with anyone else; "there was so much that we never told." But when they are unexpectedly allowed to visit their liberated and loving Aunty Ifeoma, a widowed university professor raising three children, family secrets and tensions bubble dangerously to the surface, setting in motion a chain of events that allow Kambili to slowly blossom as she begins to question the authority of the precepts and adults she once held sacred. In a soft, searing voice, Adichie examines the complexities of family, faith and country through the haunted but hopeful eyes of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood. Lush, cadenced and often disconcerting, this is an accomplished first effort. Author tour. (Oct. 17) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
To a casual observer, fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, seem to lead a privileged life in the city of Enugu, Nigeria. Their Papa is extremely wealthy, a respected businessman and philanthropist. They live in a beautiful house and attend an exclusive missionary school. Behind this luxurious façade, however, lies a dark and cruel reality. Papa is a religious fanatic who punishes his wife and children viciously for any imperfections or infraction of Church law. Family life is a rigid and suffocating prison from which there seems no escape. When Aunty Ifeoma, Papa's colorful and outspoken sister, persuades her brother to allow his children to visit her and to meet their cousins, Kambili and Jaja escape into another world. In Aunty Ifeoma's warm, crowded apartment, filled with books, cooking smells, laughter, music, and talk, the teens meet their father's father, Papa-Nnukwu, hear his folk tales, and learn that he is not the wicked heathen condemned by their Papa. Kambili and Jaja return home, inspired by love, freedom, and knowledge, while political unrest sweeps Nigeria and family tensions escalate. At last their mother is driven to commit an act of desperation that will change the family forever. Narrated by Kambili in her restrained and tender voice, this book is exquisite, as precious as the rare purple hibiscus shoots that Ifeoma gives Jaja for his garden. Quiet, chilling, and heart wrenching, this debut novel is both a superb portrait of an unfamiliar culture and an unflinching depiction of the universal turmoil of adolescence. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12;Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Algonquin, 320p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Jamie S. Hansen
KLIATT
Adichie has written a book that captures the universality of growing up and the specific setting of modern Nigeria. Fifteen-year-old Kambili lives with her upper class and well-respected father, subservient mother and older brother. From the outside, they are a family with everything, but what they are missing is joy and the freedom to express themselves without reprisals from the dominating head of household. Kimbili and her brother stay with their aunt, a university professor, and experience a freer, if less luxurious, life. Throughout the story, the political turmoil of modern Nigeria affects all the characters. This book offers insight into a very different culture and is also a revealing coming-of-age story. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JSA*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Random House, Anchor, 307p., Ages 12 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Library Journal
Fifteen-year-old Kambili lives comfortably with her parents and older brother, Jaja, in Enugu, Nigeria. Respected and generous with his money, her fanatically religious father is nevertheless cruel when his wife and children do not live up to his lofty expectations. When Kambili and Jaja visit their widowed aunt Ifeoma in the impoverished countryside, they endure many privations but finally enjoy the pleasures of a warm and loving family. They are even able to spend time with their beloved grandfather, whom their father has denounced as a heathen. Having grown up in Nigeria, Adichie speaks tellingly of the country's political and military problems, which serve to exacerbate escalating tensions within Kambili's family. The stunning denouement underscores the power of family love. Written with great sensitivity, this debut shows why Adichie has already won several awards (e.g., the Caine Prize for African Writing). Recommended for all libraries.-Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Kambili, 15, and her older brother, Jaja, live under a brutal dictatorship in their native Nigeria and also in their home. Their father beats them and their mother for the slightest perceived offense. Papa is also a fanatic Christian who gives freely of his immense wealth and is admired by all. The children's world changes when they are allowed to visit their Aunty Ifeoma, who teaches in a university town nearby and lives a relaxed life on little money. Her children talk back, have messy rooms, and help cook wonderful food. And their beloved grandfather, Papa-Nnukwu, favors the old gods. Kambili meets Father Amadi, a liberal priest, and falls in love with him. Upon Nnukwu's death, Papa arrives to take them home, but Jaja now questions his authority, and when Papa finds Kambili with a picture of her heathen grandfather, he kicks and beats her so severely that she is hospitalized. Mama poisons Papa's food, but Jaja confesses to the murder and is imprisoned. The Nigerian government falls; Aunty Ifeoma loses her job and leaves with her children for America; and Father Amadi leaves for his next assignment. Yet there is hope that after three years in prison, Jaja will be released, and Mama finally smiles. Aunty Ifeoma and their cousins have brought joy and laughter to Kambili and Jaja, and that cannot be taken away. This is a harsh story, almost unbearable at first, but beautifully written.-Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Earnest debut about a 15-year-old girl's struggle to blossom under the tyranny of her father's-and country's-strong arm. Kambili and her older brother Jaja live a luxurious life in Nigeria as the only children of a powerful man. Their father virtually supports his home village, owns factories, and, most importantly, owns the newspaper that champions free speech and the rights of the people at a time when silence is far safer. Papa is a hero. But at home in their quiet marble palace, Kambili and Jaja live in fear of regular beatings: "lessons" on how to become more pious Catholics. Mama's miscarriages are the result of these, and Jaja has a deformed finger. The three are forever in danger of breaking the rules but are never quite sure what the rules are. Papa begrudgingly allows Kambili and her brother to visit his sister Ifeoma, and the trip, the first time away from their parents, is a revelation to the siblings. Widowed Auntie Ifeoma is a university professor and mother of her own three markedly different children. Though poor, Auntie Ifeoma's house is filled with laughter, discussion, opinions and freedom, so different from the tightly regimented schedule Kambili and Jaja are used to that at first Kambili barely opens her mouth. Slowly (and with the help of young Father Amadi, whom she develops a crush on), Kambili begins to enjoy life a little. Alongside Kambili's narrative is a portrayal of the sad state of contemporary African politics-the poverty-inducing corruption, rioting, and uncertainty of basic needs. Like many first-novelists, Adichie tries for too much; her portrayal of Kambili's home life is striking but provides far too incomplete a depiction of Papa. Her portrait ofNigeria is fascinating but fragmented. Auntie Ifeoma and the cousins are likable enough but not memorable. Nonetheless, with Kambili the author has created a compelling narrative-and a surprising punch at end. A young African voice welcome to American shores. Author tour. Agent: Djana Pearson Morris/Pearson Morris & Belt Literary Management
From the Publisher
“Prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes . . . Adichie’s understanding of a young girl’s heart is so acute that her story ultimately rises above its setting and makes her little part of Nigeria seem as close and vivid as Eudora Welty’s Mississippi.” —The Boston Globe

“Splendid.”
Vanity Fair

“Amazing.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[Her] strong, lyrical voice earns her a place on the shelf squarely next to Gabriel García Márquez, Alex Haley, and Chinua Achebe.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616202422
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 4/17/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 18,877
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, published by Algonquin in 2003, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her novel Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Broadband Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, was the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. A recipient of a 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
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Read an Excerpt

Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the ?gurines on the étagère. We had just returned from church. Mama placed the fresh palm fronds, which were wet with holy water, on the dining table and then went upstairs to change. Later, she would knot the palm fronds into sagging cross shapes and hang them on the wall beside our gold-framed family photo. They would stay there until next Ash Wednesday, when we would take the fronds to church, to have them burned for ash. Papa, wearing a long, gray robe like the rest of the oblates, helped distribute ash every year. His line moved the slowest because he pressed hard on each forehead to make a perfect cross with his ash-covered thumb and slowly, meaningfully enunciated every word of "dust and unto dust you shall return."

Papa always sat in the front pew for Mass, at the end beside the middle aisle, with Mama, Jaja, and me sitting next to him. He was first to receive communion. Most people did not kneel to receive communion at the marble altar, with the blond life-size Virgin Mary mounted nearby, but Papa did. He would hold his eyes shut so hard that his face tightened into a grimace, and then he would stick his tongue out as far as it could go. Afterward, he sat back on his seat and watched the rest of the congregation troop to the altar, palms pressed together and extended, like a saucer held sideways, just as Father Benedict had taught them to do. Even though Father Benedict had been at St. Agnes for seven years, people still referred to him as "our new priest." Perhaps they would not have if he had not been white. He still looked new. The colors of his face, the colors of condensed milk and a cut-open soursop, had not tanned at all in the ?erce heat of seven Nigerian harmattans. And his British nose was still as pinched and as narrow as it always was, the same nose that had had me worried that he did not get enough air when he first came to Enugu. Father Benedict had changed things in the parish, such as insisting that the Credo and kyrie be recited only in Latin; Igbo was not acceptable. Also, hand clapping was to be kept at a minimum, lest the solemnity of Mass be compromised. But he allowed offertory songs in Igbo; he called them native songs, and when he said "native" his straight-line lips turned down at the corners to form an inverted U. During his sermons, Father Benedict usually referred to the pope, Papa, and Jesus--in that order. He used Papa to illustrate the gospels. "When we let our light shine before men, we are reflecting Christ's Triumphant Entry," he said that Palm Sunday. "Look at Brother Eugene. He could have chosen to be like other Big Men in this country, he could have decided to sit at home and do nothing after the coup, to make sure the government did not threaten his businesses. But no, he used the Standard to speak the truth even though it meant the paper lost advertising. Brother Eugene spoke out for freedom. How many of us have stood up for the truth? How many of us have re?ected the Triumphant Entry?"

The congregation said "Yes" or "God bless him" or "Amen," but not too loudly so they would not sound like the mushroom Pentecostal churches; then they listened intently, quietly. Even the babies stopped crying, as if they, too, were listening. On some Sundays, the congregation listened closely even when Father Benedict talked about things everybody already knew, about Papa making the biggest donations to Peter's pence and St. Vincent de Paul. Or about Papa paying for the cartons of communion wine, for the new ovens at the convent where the Reverend Sisters baked the host, for the new wing to St. Agnes Hospital where Father Benedict gave extreme unction. And I would sit with my knees pressed together, next to Jaja, trying hard to keep my face blank, to keep the pride from showing, because Papa said modesty was very important.

Papa himself would have a blank face when I looked at him, the kind of expression he had in the photo when they did the big story on him after Amnesty World gave him a human rights award. It was the only time he allowed himself to be featured in the paper. His editor, Ade Coker, had insisted on it, saying Papa deserved it, saying Papa was too modest. Mama told me and Jaja; Papa did not tell us such things. That blank look would remain on his face until Father Benedict ended the sermon, until it was time for communion. After Papa took communion, he sat back and watched the congregation walk to the altar and, after Mass, reported to Father Benedict, with concern, when a person missed communion on two successive Sundays. He always encouraged Father Benedict to call and win that person back into the fold; nothing but mortal sin would keep a person away from communion two Sundays in a row.

So when Papa did not see Jaja go to the altar that Palm Sunday when everything changed, he banged his leatherbound missal, with the red and green ribbons peeking out, down on the dining table when we got home. The table was glass, heavy glass. It shook, as did the palm fronds on it.

"Jaja, you did not go to communion," Papa said quietly, almost a question.

Jaja stared at the missal on the table as though he were addressing it. "The wafer gives me bad breath."

I stared at Jaja. Had something come loose in his head? Papa insisted we call it the host because "host" came close to capturing the essence, the sacredness, of Christ's body. "Wafer" was too secular, wafer was what one of Papa's factories made--chocolate wafer, banana wafer, what people bought their children to give them a treat better than biscuits.

"And the priest keeps touching my mouth and it nauseates me," Jaja said. He knew I was looking at him, that my shocked eyes begged him to seal his mouth, but he did not look at me.

"It is the body of our Lord." Papa's voice was low, very low. His face looked swollen already, with pus-tipped rashes spread across every inch, but it seemed to be swelling even more. "You cannot stop receiving the body of our Lord. It is death, you know that."

"Then I will die." Fear had darkened Jaja's eyes to the color of coal tar, but he looked Papa in the face now. "Then I will die, Papa."

Papa looked around the room quickly, as if searching for proof that something had fallen from the high ceiling, something he had never thought would fall. He picked up the missal and flung it across the room, toward Jaja. It missed Jaja completely, but it hit the glass étagerè, which Mama polished often. It cracked the top shelf, swept the beige, finger-size ceramic figurines of ballet dancers in various contorted postures to the hard floor and then landed after them. Or rather it landed on their many pieces. It lay there, a huge leatherbound missal that contained the readings for all three cycles of the church year.

Jaja did not move. Papa swayed from side to side. I stood at the door, watching them. The ceiling fan spun round and round, and the light bulbs attached to it clinked against one another. Then Mama came in, her rubber slippers making slap-slap sounds on the marble floor. She had changed from her sequined Sunday wrapper and the blouse with puffy sleeves. Now she had a plain tie-dye wrapper tied loosely around her waist and that white T-shirt she wore every other day. It was a souvenir from a spiritual retreat she and Papa had attended; the words GOD IS LOVE crawled over her sagging breasts. She stared at the figurine pieces on the floor and then knelt and started to pick them up with her bare hands.

The silence was broken only by the whir of the ceiling fan as it sliced through the still air. Although our spacious dining room gave way to an even wider living room, I felt suffocated. The off-white walls with the framed photos of Grandfather were narrowing, bearing down on me. Even the glass dining table was moving toward me.

"Nne, ngwa. Go and change," Mama said to me, startling me although her Igbo words were low and calming. In the same breath, without pausing, she said to Papa, "Your tea is getting cold," and to Jaja, "Come and help me, biko."

Papa sat down at the table and poured his tea from the china tea set with pink flowers on the edges. I waited for him to ask Jaja and me to take a sip, as he always did. A love sip, he called it, because you shared the little things you loved with the people you loved. Have a love sip, he would say, and Jaja would go first. Then I would hold the cup with both hands and raise it to my lips. One sip. The tea was always too hot, always burned my tongue, and if lunch was something peppery, my raw tongue suffered. But it didn't matter, because I knew that when the tea burned my tongue, it burned Papa's love into me. But Papa didn't say, "Have a love sip"; he didn't say anything as I watched him raise the cup to his lips.

Jaja knelt beside Mama, flattened the church bulletin he held into a dustpan, and placed a jagged ceramic piece on it. "Careful, Mama, or those pieces will cut your fingers," he said.

I pulled at one of the cornrows underneath my black church scarf to make sure I was not dreaming. Why were they acting so normal, Jaja and Mama, as if they did not know what had just happened? And why was Papa drinking his tea quietly, as if Jaja had not just talked back to him? Slowly, I turned and headed upstairs to change out of my red Sunday dress.

I sat at my bedroom window after I changed; the cashew tree was so close I could reach out and pluck a leaf if it were not for the silver-colored crisscross of mosquito netting. The bell-shaped yellow fruits hung lazily, drawing buzzing bees that bumped against my window's netting. I heard Papa walk upstairs to his room for his afternoon siesta. I closed my eyes, sat still, waiting to hear him call Jaja, to hear Jaja go into his room. But after long, silent minutes, I opened my eyes and pressed my forehead against the window louvers to look outside. Our yard was wide enough to hold a hundred people dancing atilogu, spacious enough for each dancer to do the usual somersaults and land on the next dancer's shoulders. The compound walls, topped by coiled electric wires, were so high I could not see the cars driving by on our street. It was early rainy season, and the frangipani trees planted next to the walls already ?lled the yard with the sickly-sweet scent of their flowers. A row of purple bougainvillea, cut smooth and straight as a buffet table, separated the gnarled trees from the driveway. Closer to the house, vibrant bushes of hibiscus reached out and touched one another as if they were exchanging their petals. The purple plants had started to push out sleepy buds, but most of the ?owers were still on the red ones. They seemed to bloom so fast, those red hibiscuses, considering how often Mama cut them to decorate the church altar and how often visitors plucked them as they walked past to their parked cars.

It was mostly Mama's prayer group members who plucked flowers; a woman tucked one behind her ear once--I saw her clearly from my window. But even the government agents, two men in black jackets who came some time ago, yanked at the hibiscus as they left. They came in a pickup truck with Federal Government plates and parked close to the hibiscus bushes. They didn't stay long. Later, Jaja said they came to bribe Papa, that he had heard them say that their pickup was full of dollars. I was not sure Jaja had heard correctly. But even now I thought about it sometimes. I imagined the truck full of stacks and stacks of foreign money, wondered if they had put the money in many cartons or in one huge carton, the size our fridge came in.

I was still at the window when Mama came into my room. Every Sunday before lunch, in between telling Sisi to put a little more palm oil in the soup, a little less curry in the coconut rice, and while Papa took his siesta, Mama plaited my hair. She would sit on an armchair near the kitchen door and I on the floor with my head cradled between her thighs. Although the kitchen was airy, with the windows always open, my hair would still manage to absorb the spices, and afterward, when I brought the end of a braid to my nose, I would smell egusi soup, utazi, curry. But Mama did not come into my room with the bag that held combs and hair oils and ask me to come downstairs. Instead, she said, "Lunch is ready, nne."

I meant to say I am sorry Papa broke your figurines, but the words that came out were, "I'm sorry your figurines broke, Mama."

She nodded quickly, then shook her head to show that the figurines did not matter. They did, though. Years ago, before I understood, I used to wonder why she polished them each time I heard the sounds from their room, like something being banged against the door. Her rubber slippers never made a sound on the stairs, but I knew she went downstairs when I heard the dining room door open. I would go down to see her standing by the étagère with a kitchen towel soaked in soapy water. She spent at least a quarter of an hour on each ballet-dancing figurine. There were never tears on her face. The last time, only two weeks ago, when her swollen eye was still the black-purple color of an overripe avocado, she had rearranged them after she polished them.

"I will plait your hair after lunch," she said, turning to leave.

"Yes, Mama."

I followed her downstairs. She limped slightly, as though one leg were shorter than the other, a gait that made her seem even smaller than she was. The stairs curved elegantly in an S shape, and I was halfway down when I saw Jaja standing in the hallway. Usually he went to his room to read before lunch, but he had not come upstairs today; he had been in the kitchen the whole time, with Mama and Sisi.

"Ke kwanu?" I asked, although I did not need to ask how he was doing. I had only to look at him. His seventeen-year-old face had grown lines; they zigzagged across his forehead, and inside each line a dark tension had crawled in. I reached out and clasped his hand shortly before we went into the dining room. Papa and Mama were already seated, and Papa was washing his hands in the bowl of water Sisi held before him. He waited until Jaja and I sat down opposite him, and started the grace. For twenty minutes he asked God to bless the food. Afterward, he intoned the Blessed Virgin in several different titles while we responded, "Pray for us." His favorite title was Our Lady, Shield of the Nigerian People. He had made it up himself. If only people would use it every day, he told us, Nigeria would not totter like a Big Man with the spindly legs of a child.

Lunch was fufu and onugbu soup. The fufu was smooth and ?uffy. Sisi made it well; she pounded the yam energetically, adding drops of water into the mortar, her cheeks contracting with the thump-thump-thump of the pestle. The soup was thick with chunks of boiled beef and dried ?sh and dark green onugbu leaves. We ate silently. I molded my fufu into small balls with my ?ngers, dipped it in the soup, making sure to scoop up ?sh chunks, and then brought it to my mouth. I was certain the soup was good, but I did not taste it, could not taste it. My tongue felt like paper.

"Pass the salt, please," Papa said.

We all reached for the salt at the same time. Jaja and I touched the crystal shaker, my ?nger brushed his gently, then he let go. I passed it to Papa. The silence stretched out even longer.

"They brought the cashew juice this afternoon. It tastes good. I am sure it will sell," Mama ?nally said.

"Ask that girl to bring it," Papa said.

Mama pressed the ringer that dangled above the table on a transparent wire from the ceiling, and Sisi appeared.

"Yes, Madam?"

"Bring two bottles of the drink they brought from the factory."

"Yes, Madam."

I wished Sisi had said "What bottles, Madam?" or "Where are they, Madam?" Just something to keep her and Mama talking, to veil the nervous movements of Jaja molding his fufu. Sisi was back shortly and placed the bottles next to Papa. They had the same faded-looking labels as every other thing Papa's factories made--the wafers and cream biscuits and bottled juice and banana chips. Papa poured the yellow juice for everyone. I reached out quickly for my glass and took a sip. It tasted watery. I wanted to seem eager; maybe if I talked about how good it tasted, Papa might forget that he had not yet punished Jaja.

"It's very good, Papa," I said.

Papa swirled it around his bulging cheeks. "Yes, yes."

"It tastes like fresh cashew," Mama said.

Say something, please, I wanted to say to Jaja. He was supposed to say something now, to contribute, to compliment Papa's new product. We always did, each time an employee from one of his factories brought a product sample for us.

"Just like white wine," Mama added. She was nervous, I could tell--not just because a fresh cashew tasted nothing like white wine but also because her voice was lower than usual. "White wine," Mama said again, closing her eyes to better savor the taste. "Fruity white wine."

"Yes," I said. A ball of fufu slipped from my ?ngers and into the soup.

Papa was staring pointedly at Jaja. "Jaja, have you not shared a drink with us, gbo? Have you no words in your mouth?" he asked, entirely in Igbo. A bad sign. He hardly spoke Igbo, and although Jaja and I spoke it with Mama at home, he did not like us to speak it in public. We had to sound civilized in public, he told us; we had to speak English. Papa's sister, Aunty Ifeoma, said once that Papa was too much of a colonial product. She had said this about Papa in a mild, forgiving way, as if it were not Papa's fault, as one would talk about a person who was shouting gibberish from a severe case of malaria.

"Have you nothing to say, gbo, Jaja?" Papa asked again.

"Mba, there are no words in my mouth," Jaja replied.

"What?" There was a shadow clouding Papa's eyes, a shadow that had been in Jaja's eyes. Fear. It had left Jaja's eyes and entered Papa's.

"I have nothing to say," Jaja said.

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Reading Group Guide

1. What is the emotional atmosphere in Kambili’s home? What effect does this have on Kambili and Jaja? Why is their father so strict?

2. When Kambili visits Aunty Ifeoma, she is immediately struck by how much laughter fills the house. Why is it so surprising to her to hear people speak, laugh, and argue so freely? How does she manage to regain her own ability to speak, and, most importantly, to laugh?

3. When Kambili hears Amaka weeping after her grandfather’s death, Kambili thinks: “She had not learned the art of silent crying. She had not needed to” [p. 185]. What does this passage suggest about the differences between Amaka and Kambili? In what other ways are Aunty Ifeoma’s children—Amaka, Obiora, and Chima—different from Kambili and Jaja?

4. Amaka says, “Uncle Eugene is not a bad man,
really. . . . People have problems, people make mistakes” [p. 251]. Is he in fact a “bad man”? Why does he violently abuse his wife and children? What good deeds does he perform? How can his generosity and political integrity coexist with his religious intolerance?

5. In what ways are Aunty Ifeoma and Eugene different from one another? How does each character approach life? How do they differ in their religious views? Why is Ifeoma so much happier even though she is poor and her brother is rich?

6. Eugene boasts that his Kambili and Jaja are “not like those loud children people are raising these days, with no home training and no fear of God”; to which Ade Coker replies: “Imagine what the Standard would be if we were all quiet” [p. 58]. Why is quiet obedience a questionable virtue in a country where the truth needs to be spoken? In what ways is the refusal to be quiet dangerous?

7. What kind of man is Papa-Nnukwu? What are his most appealing qualities? What do the things he prays for say about his character? Why has his son disowned him so completely?

8. What are the ironies involved in Eugene loving God the Father and Jesus the Son, but despising his own father and abusing his own son?

9. Why does Kambili’s mother keep returning to her husband, even after he beats her so badly that he causes a miscarriage, and even after he nearly kills Kambili? How does she justify her husband’s behavior? How should she be judged for poisoning her husband?

10. How does Father Amadi bring Kambili to life? Why is her relationship with him so important to her sense of herself?

11. Jaja questions why Jesus had to be sacrificed, “Why did He have to murder his own son so we would be saved? Why didn’t He just go ahead and save us?” [p. 289] And yet, Jaja sacrifices himself to save his mother from prison. Why does he do this? Should this be understood as a Christian sacrifice or a simple act of compassion and bravery?

12. After Aunty Ifeoma moves her family to the United States, Amaka writes, “there has never been a power outage and hot water runs from a tap, but we don’t laugh anymore . . . because we no longer have the time to laugh, because we don’t even see one another” [p. 301]. What does this passage suggest about the essential difference between American culture and African culture?

13. What does the novel as a whole say about the nature of religion? About the relationship between belief and behavior?

14. What does Purple Hibiscus reveal about life in Nigeria? How are Nigerians similar to Americans? In what significant ways are they different? How do Americans regard Nigerians in the novel?

15. Why does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie end the novel with an image of rain clouds? What are the implications of Kambili feeling that the clouds hung so low she “could reach out and squeeze the moisture from them”? What is the meaning of the novel’s very simple final sentence: “The new rains will come down soon”?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 30 )
Rating Distribution

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(22)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2003

    A simply written, complicated book

    Young Kambili's father is larger than life-- a physically big, economically powerful man who runs factories and a newspaper with the courage to expose the corruption of Nigeria's newest post-coup government. He is religious in the extreme; his before- meal prayers last so long that the food becomes cold, and his money has made his local church the most beautiful and prosperous in the area. People look at him with awe; they offer him their daughters and rely upon his great generosity to feed themselves and educate their children. So how can his family--his teenaged daughter, her older brother Jaja and her mother--not love him? How can they balk when he refuses to let them break bread with his own father because, he says, the man worships the old gods? How can they complain when his fervor to keep them all righteous and spotless in God's eyes tips into rigidity and, ultimately, into violence? Purple Hibiscus explores, through the eyes of its young protagonist, the schizophrenia of life with a Great Man who is a dictator to his own family. It is utterly believable; even the scenes that made me flinch were so truthfully written that I could still understand the dynamics that held the family together--the economic dependence, the paternalism, the haven of order amid the country's chaos, the abiding faith that in time, things will get better or, at least, they will not get worse. This could be a grim tale, but the complexity of the characters, the candor of the language and its beautifully precise sense of place raise it above its painful subject matter. It its way, this family works as a microcosm of the country. In spite of the power-hunger and greed of an inept government, the paranoia, the contradictions, the toxic aftermath of colonialism, the broken promises across the board--be it the diversion of fuel or non-payment of state salaries--Nigeria's citizens, at least in this book, run only when they have no choice. And like the family members, they do so with a sense of betrayal, a wounded love. A simply written, complicated book. Susan O'Neill, author, Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Viet Nam

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013

    Nice

    I love this book it was so many emotion i love it

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2013

    Chimanda to me is the best Nigeria's best female writer

    I read this book back while i was in ss2 in Nigeria(2009) and I still feel compelled to read, just so I can get a better understanding and view of it. And trust me, in the next three or more years I would still be reading this. The book shows how slyful people really area, especially through Mama' s character, and how men think they can control the lives of their family members,especiallly African men, so I nudge everyone to read this great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2012

    I hate to read books. I have never ever finished a novel in my

    I hate to read books. I have never ever finished a novel in my entire life and I'm 21 years old. But i always wanted to be a writer. Then along came Chiamanda Adichie. I read this book and i realized that i couldn't be a writer. How could I? There's some one out there who's 100 times more gifted, why should i bother? This novel, My God! This novel is a master piece. The moment you set your eyes on the first page, you can't let go till you're through. It's timing is perfect, the pace, the suspense it's so brilliantly done. There are a few twists in the book, but it's not a stupid cheap twist that has little or no connection to the story. Through out the whole book, it's right there in front of you, but you don't recognize it. Infact, This book is so good that in order to grasp what just happened or what's been happening, you have to read it twice, or at least read the first part twice. It's a book about Nigeria, corruption, family,religion, forbidden love, fanaticism and street-wise ethics. It's a book that challenges conventional Christian African beliefs but it does so quietly without condemning or condoning it. It allows the reader to arrive at a decision about what is right or wrong. Conservative Nigerians might be offended by this book, I know a few Nigerians who speak against it. BUY THIS BOOK!!! I PROMISE YOU, YOU WILL NOT AND CANNOT REGRET IT!!!!!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2014

    Highly recommended provocative must read

    Purple Hibiscus written by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is one of the most superbly written novels to date. This books evokes unexpected emotions as the reader journeys with this Nigerian family from a stabilized life to one that becomes unsettled. As young 15 year old Kambili tells the provocative story, with such rhythmical deliberation, the reader finds herself arrested between each word.

    Born into privilege, Kambili and her brother are given the opportunity to experience the contrast of their seemingly normal life, to a bizarre life of laughter which exudes out of her aunt and cousins. Kambili's unwillingness to embrace anything that is outside of the scheduled life that her father has chosen for her, begins to overwhelm her with pain, confusion, and apprehension.

    Page by page this book begins to eradicate abuse (spiritual, verbal, and physical), narcissistic behavior, fear, hate, privilege, and power.

    I am so glad to have read this wonderful, breathtaking novel! A must read

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  • Posted June 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    GREAT Book!

    This is different from anything I've ever read before, and I LOVED it. The author creates a unique story while sticking to the real world. The characters are well established, and I love the feeling behind the words, the truth that they ring. I definitely recommend reading this book, for anyone.

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  • Posted May 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    painful and stimulating

    awesome read. i cant believe its her debut novel. very expertly written. she's a master. i own her 3 books now. never disappointing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2008

    Wonderful read.

    Although the subject matter/parental abuse is difficult to read, this book is so beautifully written and insightful you will want to finish this book in a couple sittings. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2006

    Wonderful Read!

    I heard the author speak at my local bookstore about her newest book. She was extrememly articulate, so I borrowed her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, from my local library. I loved her writing and found it extremely moving how she was able to tell both the stories of the characters' personal struggles as well as story of Nigeria's struggles as a nation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2006

    Family dysfunction

    If you're one for great writing, and reading about family dysfunction, then PURPLE HIBISCUS is the book for you. I was reminded at times of either the book GLASS CASTLE or THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD in that the story deals with a youth who has little or no contorol over his/her environment. While you might expect this to be a complete downer, it is not. I highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    an electrifying read

    Purple Hibiscus is a beautiful story. The plot is based on a 14 year-old who grew up under the stifling patronage of a stern father. Her domineering father frequently physically abused his family alongside her, creating terror at home and stunting the psychological growth of his children. Against the backdrop of the deterioration of the socio-economic and political life of Nigeria as it undergoes a military coup, the life Kambili knows is shattered and she has to seek for refuge in the home of her aunt. Kambili the sheltered but highly restricted child, who never thought of herself as lucky and who had earlier been absconded by her peers and cousin because of her supposedly privileges, learns to assert herself and becomes a beloved character, a character who easily understood the plight of those around her.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2004

    Read this fantastic and very dramatic book!

    This book was about a Nigerian girl who is growing up,and having to face all the trials and tribulations that were gowing on at the time, in Nigeria.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2004

    Exquisite debut novel

    This is first-rate historical fiction that reads like a memoir. Written in first person narrative by the main character, Kambili Achike, a 15-year-old Nigerian girl, it is a stunningly original debut novel. Brought up in an extremely privileged household Kambili is brought up by a father who is a religious fanatic, to the point of physically abusing his children and wife when they do not follow the ¿rules¿ that he imposes regarding praying, etc. As the children have grown to teens they begin to question many of their father¿s actions. They are not allowed to visit their grandfather because their father regards him as an ¿unrelenting pagan¿ who will poison the children¿s minds. The narrative is restrained yet luminous and telling. When political unrest begins to strike close to home, they are finally allowed to visit their Aunty Ifeoma¿s warm, crowded, somewhat impoverished household. They are transported into another world where the children speak freely; there is laughter, music and talk. Slowly they begin to realize the extent of their imprisoned lives. The novel is written with sensitivity and originality in wonderful prose. It depicts an unfamiliar culture while describing family values and the universal turmoil of teenagers. I would highly recommend it to book clubs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2004

    What a wonderfully written book!

    Truthfully, at first I wasn't really sure how much of this book that I'd be able to relate to and if it would maintain my interest. However, I was plesantly surprised to find myself engrossed with this novel. It was very well written and contains great character depth! I really enjoyed how this talented author almost places you inside the mind of the main character. I was, also, quite intrigued by the descriptions of Niageria's cultural customs, which at times tends to conflict with the father of the main character's religous views.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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