Purple Hibiscus By Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways.
This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new—the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and true living is begun. "
When after the Confession and observing penance he said the above, even though he committed violence in the name of religion just hours ago, showed how he truly believed whatever he was doing was right.
“Laughter floated over my head. Words spurted from everyone, often not seeking and not getting any response. We always spoke with a purpose back home, especially at the table, but my cousins seemed to simply speak and speak and speak.”- Kambili
Change happened when Kambili and Jaja visited their aunt’s place for the first time during the Christmas holidays and lived with their cousins. They watched TV there- one of the firsts, as Papa never penciled in TV time on their schedules. She wore trousers and shorts from Amara, as she didn’t own any because Papa said it was sinful for a woman to wear trousers. She tried applying lipstick. It wasn’t unreligious- against ‘the glory of God’. She learnt how to peel yams, cook, clean and wash plates. They learnt to save fuel and water. They learnt the difference between pagan and a traditionalist, and that non-Catholics need not be treated with censure all the time.
“No! I told him, with a tight blink. It was not right. You did not break into a song in the middle of rosary. I did not join in the singing, and neither did Jaja.”
Kambili was introverted. She would listen to every word spoken, follow every cackle of laughter and line of banter, but wouldn’t speak much. She was always inside her head. Slowly as the days passed she came to like laughter and the sound of her voice when she laughed. She learnt to speak without lowering her voice. She replied back whenever criticized without reason. Words didn’t get caught up somewhere in her throat. And she sang.
“I looked up to seek out Jaja’s face, to see if he, too, was bewildered that Aunty Ifeoma and her family prayed for, of all things, laughter.”
I loved the endearing brother sister relationship where there wasn’t much dialogue. They used the language of the eyes instead. They kept each other’s secret. Jaja and Kambili went together- like corn and ube, rice and stew, yam and oil. Jaja was the first to rebel against his Papa. He would come to the rescue of his sister and mother without batting the eyelid.
I wanted to say, “I will miss you” but instead I said, “I will write you.” “I will write you first,” he said.
“You are almost sixteen, Kambili. You are beautiful. You will find more love than you will need in a life-time,” he said. And I did not know whether to laugh or cry. He was wrong. He was so wrong.
“I wanted to tell Mama that it did feel different to be back, that our living room had too much empty space, too much wasted marble floor that gleamed from Sisi’s polishing and housed nothing. Our ceilings were too high. Our furniture was lifeless: the glass tables did not shed twisted skin in the harmattan, the leather sofa’s greeting was a clammy coldness, the Persian rugs were too lush to have any feeling."