Purple Hibiscus Book Review
A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus is a truly amazing novel that narrates a child’s search for approval and journey through phases of life that one goes through. It tells of a child’s strive to be accepted yet defiant at the same time. In this book she touches topics such as politics, religion and even domestic violence, the last two being connected in the presented situation. With use of the Igbo language she writes with a level of intelligence, describing Kambili’s (the main character) world both physical and emotional to perfection. It’s almost as if Adichie, for that time, possessed the mind of a fifteen-year-old Nigerian Catholic girl.To begin with the subject of ‘politics’ in the novel, Adichie has placed a common character one I would call “the defiant citizen”. This character being the outspoken one who is not afraid to share openly his/her opinion on government issues. In most only one of these is presented but in Purple Hibiscus we see more than one. Not only that Adichie openly talks of the politics related happenings of which she navigates that ocean very well.
Adichie, though, does not give us what we expect when it comes to religion. In this area she presents a different situation, so to say. This being a Father whose aim to please the Lord with everything including his family, led him to domestic violence. Giving punishments whenever anyone sinned. His acts were covered up by religion. But Adichie has written his part in such a way that we don’t hate him much, but we pity him, so that we are able to understand Kambili’s thoughts when she loses him. At some point in the book after they meet the priest to confess their sins we see him claiming that they were spotless (spiritually) that if the Lord had appeared then, they would all go to heaven which makes us wonder that happened after his death, after all that he did to stay within the “white” man’s way of following God, after all that he did to ensure his family followed that way with him, where did he go? Sure, enough he had good intentions and his heart did bleed when he hurt others, he helped many and gave (with condition) but was it enough?
There are other characters in the book such as the cousin who appears as irritating because of her inability to understand Kambili. Or the brother who carries the burden of protecting both his mother and sister from his father. The mother who at first could be seen as admirable then evil because she commits a serious crime. Many other characters of equal importance but definitely not as outstanding as the Kambili’s family.
Then there’s romance part of the novel, Adichie has not failed us there either. Still she does leave us in perfect suspense. She surprises us by not giving us a definite answer, she does not tell us whether or not the two in love end up together, she does not say yes, nor does she say no. I believe she deliberately hid the age of the Catholic priest to ensure that we can neither veto nor ascent to their ‘love’. But she gives us an ending to their story that will suffice. She gives us positive suspense, which is in other words, hope.
Finally, in the end we see Kambili, choosing to love without question, to do things the way she wants, we see her taking charge and making choices she’d never have had the chance of making if her father was still in control. We see her becoming what her brother wanted to be, defiant. Thus, this novel speaks volumes when it comes to defiance, when it comes to breaking free. Would she have done so if her father was alive, we don’t know. What we do know is that she in the end owns her decisions and gains her freedom.
In conclusion, there is a point in the book when Kambili realizes that she believed her father was immortal, this is somewhat similar to the words of another book character (Celia, from the book: The storm sister, by Lucinda Riley) and I quote ” often we do not accept the mortality of those we love”. This is true we aren’t ready to accept the fact that all humans inevitably will die and when those we love do die we will ask why? But in the book Purple Hibiscus we read something by one of the characters, Father Amadi to be specific, (please do note that these are not the exact same words used), he says to Kambili’s in his letter, “do not seek the whys for sometimes there’s simply no way in which we can formulate the whys”. We will not always know the reason for certain occurrences and sometimes it is best not to ask why but simply understand that circumstance is its own and finding out why will not change what happened yet many a time it is a comfort to know why. To look for the reason is not wrong but sometimes it’s a search that leads to nowhere.