Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


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“One of the most vital and original novelists of her generation.” —Larissa MacFarquhar, The New Yorker

From the bestselling author of Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616202415
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 04/17/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 9,707
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003, the New Yorker, Granta, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. Purple Hibiscus, her first novel, 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 New York Times Notable Book and a People Best Book of the Year; her novel Americanah won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, was the winner of the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. A recipient of a 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

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.

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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Purple Hibiscus 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 85 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book it was so many emotion i love it
Adaora More than 1 year ago
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!!!!!!!
I_read_books More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous 5 months ago
Such a great read, short yet feel so attached to the characters and story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TinaV95 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first foray into any literature set in a country other than the US or England / Ireland / Scotland (blushing shamefully). This novel - set in Nigeria - is a mixture of literary fiction and coming-of-age with a twist of family dysfunction and violence. I knew a bit about the plot from other reviews before I began this, but did not imagine how angry I would become with the abusive father in the tale. I very much enjoyed "Purple Hibiscus" and am looking forward to reading more Adichie.I listened to this on audio book so I loved hearing the pronunciation of the Nigerian words but did often wonder how they were spelled...
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Men beat their wives and children. Politics is a dirty business. And the Catholic Church is bad. The end.Who cares.
missmath144 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book speaks of the lives of a wealthy family in Nigeria during a time of political turmoil. However, it is more about living in a household with an abusive father/husband. When the children have a chance to stay with their less-privileged cousins, they find an entirely different way of life, a life of books and laughter and spontaneity.
amandacb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really, Adichie can do no wrong in my eyes. She is one of my favorite authors, and Purple Hibiscus underscores why. The dichotomy between home life and life at the girl's aunt's house is jarring, and proves to be a metaphor for what was and what is. Lovely writing.
lauranav on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The novel is told from the point of view of a young woman during a specific 5 month period that proved a major turning point in her life. The first hundred pages introduce her family and the life they live. Her father is a very devout Christian, very generous, principled, perhaps a bit proud, and very strict. Everyone else is really defined by how obedient they are to the father. The next hundred pages show a period of strange freedom as they spend a few weeks with their aunt where there is laughter and love, instead of fear and judgment. The final section is the climax, where the members of the family find they don't fit back in their old lifestyle.The main character is the young woman Kambili. And we do see her come of age and grow into her own, even while still adoringher father and craving his approval and love. Another well developed character is her cousin Amaka who is initially critical of Kambili for being rich, but grows in her own right as she learns that having a lot of money does not always make one rich.But the character that colors the actions of everyone is the father. He has some very good qualities. He is truly generous with the money his manufacturing plants bring him. He is seeking to be a good Christian in a country seeped in traditionalist and pagan rituals. He stands up for clear principles in the face of a corrupt government and military coup. We have no reason to doubt that these things truly represent him.But like all of us, he is also broken, and his brokenness comes out as a strict physical punishment of his wife and children if they do anything he sees as sinful or disobedient. His faith is completely works based, with no room for grace. And his response of beating his family is a horrendous miscarriage of justice and his role as protector of his family. That the priest of his church feeds the man's pride but never steps in to confront him with this behavior.
lriley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A coming of age novel--Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Purple Hibiscus' is narrated by 15 year old Kambili. Set in Adichie's native Nigeria--Kambili comes from a wealthy politically and religious oriented household. Her autocratic father Eugene--an obsessed and extremely devout Roman Catholic physically and emotionally abuses her and also her mother and her brother Jaja. Notwithstanding the harsh atmosphere of his home Eugene is very involved in manufacturing and food processing in the area and also runs an influential newspaper. As well he is very active in local charities which revolve around the church. After a military coup he becomes a standout in opposition to the new government. The tension in his home though is palpable--and he is the cause of it all. He refuses his own father Nnukwu (who's health is rapidly declining) any contact with his family because he still believes in the old ways--the old native religions. He lays into his family physically whenever he sees one of them divert from the path of righteousness into 'sin'. After one particularly brutal episode his widowed sister Ifeoma convinces him to let Kambili and Jaja spend a few days with her family in a nearby university town. She has three children--a daughter Amaka--(around Kambili's age), and two sons Obiora and a very young Chima. Timid at first Kambili and Jaja though quickly adapt to their new surroundings. Ifeoma's family is catholic as well but the atmosphere around their faith is much much lighter. Theirs is an African priest Father Adami who is very involved with kids and sports and not nearly the disciplinarian the European Father Benedict of Kambili and Jaja's own parish--and Kambili soon develops a crush for Father Adami. Their grandfather Nnukwu increasingly debilitated by illness is taken in during their stay and when Nnukwu dies and Eugene finds out that his 'heathen' father had been living under the same roof he immediately takes Kambili and Jaja back and punishes them for not telling him. With the political situation as well deteriorating Eugene is under a lot of pressure--his lead newspaperman--a staunch critic of the new regime is assassinated--a loss that Eugene takes to heart. Their home life deteriorates and after another particularly brutal beating that puts Kambili in the hospital--she and her brother once again wind up in her aunt Ifeoma's house. Ifeoma as well a critic of the new government is being forced out of her professorship at the university and with very few options left applies for a visa to the United States--so everything for everyone is tenuous--and it is at this point that Eugene dies.Ngozi Adichie is seen by some as the literary heir to Chinua Achebe. What this her first novel clearly shows is she has the capability of living up to those projections. The prose is very straightforward and the characters are well and realistically drawn--even the often oppressive Eugene has a number of good points. The story is compelling and as well is very effectively told. There is almost no extraneous material which shows she is very much in control of her work. Anyway it is well done and a very worthwhile read.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written novel that drew me in from the beginning. It is written in a manner that enables the reader to smile, cringe, weep, gasp, whatever at all the right times. It is about a family in Nigeria that from the outside looks absolutely glowingly perfect but on the inside is shockingly disturbed and all the family and the help are dedicated to keeping the horrific nature of the home life within the home. I was totally unprepared for the nature of the atrocities that occurred. (All in the name of love and betterment of the victims.)This same story occurs daily world wide, but rarely are we enabled to read of it in such prose as to actually feel as if we were there. This young author is brilliant and has a wonderful future in the world of writing.
sandraany on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Gave me a great insight in Nigerian culture.
bfertig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautifully told story of the dualities within family and country, told from the perspective of teenage girl Kambili in Nigeria. Briefly, Kambili's youthful world deconstructs through a combination of external conflict such as the fallout from Nigeria's Civil War, and familial conflict centered around her wealthy, powerful, generous, maniacally devout yet abusive, violent, and cheating father. At the same time, her eyes are opened to life not dominated by fear by visiting her poor yet educated aunt and cousins, accompanied by her brave brother Jaja and by spending time with the popular young Father Amadi, who is so different from her father.The numerous juxtapositions and ironies blend together to make a portrait of a family and country, tied together by the symbol of the purple hibiscus, which represents the infancy and potential of both to become something unique. Privelidge and poverty, faith and secularism, new ways and old, outward benevolence and inner demons, loyalty to family vs to the community, fear and bravery, symptoms vs. causes, all these themes are intertwined as Kambili opens up to both the reader and her family.This book is excellent for those looking for a poignant and rich story peopled by characters shaped with all five senses and diverse responses to a country in conflict. I recommend it - there's plenty in there for a lively book club discussion.
laytonwoman3rd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lovely prose, heart-breaking story, lots to think about. It took me a while to get involved in the story; initially the 15-year-old narrator's matter-of-fact acceptance of paternal oppression and cruelty made it difficult for me to engage with her and her family. I persevered because of the positive responses to the book from readers whose opinions I respect. Once the children, Kambili and Jaja, were introduced to the strikingly different world their cousins were growing up in, the story became much more interesting to me. Moving from the wealth, privilege and strict routine of their home to the near poverty, primitive living conditions and informal loving environment of their Aunty's apartment, the children rapidly learn lessons about life that their fanatically Catholic father, Eugene, a Great Man in the eyes of his community, has tried desperately to "protect" them from.For me, the strongest element of this book is the love that develops between Kambili and Father Amadi. We see this only from Kambili's perspective, and it is of course colored by her naivete and longing, but it felt achingly true. The author leaves us with no suggestion that the priest's actions toward the young girl were in any way inappropriate, although on the face of it their relationship bordered on forbidden territory. The irony is that this priest, who is so much more casual and relaxed about his faith than Kambili's rigid, dogmatic father, appears to be capable of a brand of pure unconditional Christ-like love that Eugene would probably see as ungodly.I found the liberal sprinklings of Igbo words and phrases throughout the book distracting, not because I did not know their meanings, but because I could not hear them, and have no idea how this language sounds. I remember when I read Cry, the Beloved Country, there was a glossary with a very good pronunciation key that helped me find the music in the Zulu words. I wished for a similar aid while reading Purple Hibiscus.
TheOnlyMe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great read. A bit challenging but very refreshing and insightful. I'm not sure what else to say other than read it. The author is an amazing woman and a bright star in the sky.
annecheryl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Definitely worth reading! A very human interest filled approach to serious themes, such as the conflict between the traditional and Christian missionary imposed religions, family relationships, and the political evolution of an African state. Well-written and approachable.
kellyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie, a native of Nigeria, describes lives of privilege and wealth seldom considered by western readers. Even more unusual, to this western reader, was the devotion to Catholicism exhibited by the father of the main character, Kambili. Fifteen-year old Kambili narrates the gradual dissolution of her family that begins, she tells us, when her brother, Jaja, refused to receive communion. Politics, religion and family history converge in Kambili¿s family and result in great tragedy. In many ways this is a family story without geographic boundaries that could happen anywhere; that the family lives in Nigeria provides an interesting backdrop. Adichie brings to life the food, sights and smells of city life and rural life in Nigeria. She captures with aching beauty the anxiety, fear and tremulous feelings of Kambili.From the beginning sentence you know something terrible is coming and yet the reader is compelled to keep reading. When the tragedies begin to multiply there is a sense of inevitability¿no other resolution is possible. Still the end is a surprise.Adichie writes lovingly and beautifully and demonstrates great respect for her characters and their flaws. This is not an easy story to hear yet in the end it enriches the heart.
1morechapter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has really impressed me with her writing abilities. Purple Hibiscus was Adichie¿s first novel. I read her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, last year and it was in my Top 20 for 2007. Although some have stated that Purple Hibiscus was not as good as Half of a Yellow Sun, I disagree. I think it was just as well-written, and in fact I may prefer it.Kambili and her family are of the wealthy upper class in Nigeria. Her father owns several factories and is a major benefactor of his local church. Kambili is a very compliant child, always wanting to please her parents, while her brother Jaja is much more independent. Their father is very strict regarding his household in every detail. He puts both of them on a schedule everyday and they must not deviate from it. He insists on each child being first in their respective classes.I felt so much for Kambili. In the beginning she truly looks up to her father and wants to please him. She believes he is perfect. As the story progresses, she sees more and more of his faults and begins to have more questions about his discipline. Kambili¿s mother also suffers from his excessive demands. Any missteps he considers as sins to be physically removed from those committing them. Adichie doesn¿t totally set him up as a monster, though; somehow she manages to make the reader sympathize (a little) with him as well.Purple Hibiscus is not just a story of domestic abuse. It is also about the past political conflicts in Nigeria, about how Christianity has affected the region, and also about the strong bonds among family members. Adichie truly is following in Achebe¿s footsteps as one of Nigeria¿s greatest writers.Highly recommended.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kimbali is the 15-year-old daughter of a wealthy Nigerian businessman. Her father, Eugene, is adored by the community for his philanthropy. Their home is spacious, luxuriously furnished, and immaculate. But within his home Eugene rules with an iron hand, guided by his fanatical religious beliefs. He keeps his children on a tight schedule and closely monitors their activities. He is estranged from his own father because of his refusal to convert to Christianity, and his children¿s visits with their grandfather are limited to 15 minutes. When Kimbali and her brother Jaja are allowed to visit their Aunty Ifeoma and her children, they experience love and laughter for the first time. Kimbali is intimidated, afraid that she is going against her father¿s will, and against God. She is also embarrassed by her lack of basic household skills. Jaja adapts more easily to his cousins¿ lifestyle, and finds satisfaction in household chores, tending the garden, and playing sports with local boys. They both return home changed by the experience. All of this unfolds against a backdrop of Nigerian political unrest which threatens the lives of several characters. But this story is primarily a coming-of-age novel: Kimbali¿s process of self-discovery continues, and Jaja begins to resist his father¿s authority. Their abusive home environment is increasingly evident. This was Adichie¿s debut novel; it was long-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize and made the Orange Prize shortlist the same year. While it was not as compelling as her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, it is beautifully written and filled with believable characters. I found the symbolism behind the purple hibiscus particularly moving:Jaja¿s defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma¿s purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, do do. (p. 16)
nobooksnolife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd like to emphasize the possible allegory (intended by the author, or not)that the Nation is a Family, and that the family she writes about represents the struggles of her native Nigeria. For me, this interpretation enhances her treatment of characters and plot. This book also stimulated me to search the Internet for information and photos about Nigeria (foods, plants, maps, and political analyses), of which, like most Americans, I know so little. Tagged by some as a "coming-of-age" story sadly misses the depth of this novel. I look forward to reading more from this young, insightful writer.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jaja's defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma's experimental purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, to do. -From Purple Hibiscus, page 16-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel - Purple Hibiscus - is a poignant, beautifully written story. It is narrated by Kambili, a 15 year old Nigerian girl who grows up with her brother, Jaja, amid domestic violence, religious fanaticism and political unrest. Kambili and Jaja's father, Eugene, is a well-respected and wealthy man who gives generously to his church and community; and as the publisher of a liberal newspaper, he speaks out against the tyranny of a new government following a coup. But, Adichie reveals a dark side to Eugene as he elevates his religious faith to something horrifying and tragic. As the story unfolds, we watch through Kambili's eyes as she matures and is transformed into a girl able to see beauty in a world full of cruelty, able to find love where she least expects it, and ultimately to realize hope amid tragedy. Lyrical, honest, exquisitely crafted and with an ending that stuns the reader ¿ Purple Hibiscus will resonate with those who appreciate an authentic tale. Highly recommended.