Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Why I Read It: I was looking for something outside my normal genres.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: This was a tough story. If you’re looking for a well-written tough story, then this might be the one for you.

Narrator: Lisette Lecat

Publisher: Recorded Books (2004)

Length: 10 CDs

I haven’t decided yet whether or not I liked Purple Hibiscus, but it made me think; and I truly enjoy thinking. Every once in while I stick with a book not because I particularly like the subject, enjoy the prose, or find the text entertaining; I stay with it because it is stretching the few brain cells that call my head home. You know what I mean?

C. N. Adichie‘s writing kept me engaged for 10 discs (appr. 11 hours). The setting is Nigeria near present day. Kambili (15), her brother Jaja (17), and her mother all live under the tyrannical roof of her well-respected father. A main theme throughout the story is domestic abuse and how these 3 survive, told through the eyes of Kambili. Her family is rich and privileged; Kambili and Jaja go to private school, the family has at least 2 vehicles and a driver, they have wait-staff, etc.

As the story unfolds, Kambili and Jaja get to go to their aunt’s house for a short visit, their first unsupervised visit away from home. Of course their father sends them with modified schedules; yes, he has day-to-day schedules for everyone in his household. For the first time the kids are free to laugh, watch TV, and listen to music throughout the day. There is even singing, something their father sees as unchristian and therefore not allowed in his house. The kids start to bloom into real people in the few short visits they have at their aunt’s.

Kambili and Jaja of course have to adjust to a less privileged household – like no indoor running water, no guaranteed 24-7 electricity, no guaranteed petrol for the car, no daily meat for supper. But they gladly trade all their privileges for bunking with their cousins, the lack of indoor ventilation, no daily sodas, and the enjoyment and freedom of their aunt’s house. While much of the book was a bit tough to listen to, the book is hopeful and left me with a believe that life would turn out OK for Kambili.

Lisette Lecat was the audioartist for this book and she did an outstanding job. There are sounds in the Nigerian tongue that just don’t exist in the American span of dialect. She pulled off both female and male voices and brought forth the emotional sides to the characters.

What I Liked: Being saturated in a foreign culture; the blooming of the main characters (the children); the book ends with hope; the author took on a tough subject.

What I Disliked: Familial physical abuse can be tough to listen to.

Note: This review was originally published on Darkcargo.com on 08/04/2011 and republished, and reformatted, here with permission of Lady Darkcargo.

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