Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus

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.

Purple Hibiscus, Nigerian-born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's debut, begins like many novels set in regions considered exotic by the western reader: the politics, climate, social customs, and, above all, food of Nigeria (balls of fufu rolled between the fingers, okpa bought from roadside vendors) unfold like the purple hibiscus of the title, rare and fascinating. But within a few pages, these details, however vividly rendered, melt into the background of a larger, more compelling story of a joyless family. Fifteen-year-old Kambili is the dutiful and self-effacing daughter of a rich man, a religious fanatic and domestic tyrant whose public image is of a politically courageous newspaper publisher and philanthropist. No one in Papa's ancestral village, where he is titled "Omelora" (One Who Does For the Community), knows why Kambili¹s brother cannot move one of his fingers, nor why her mother keeps losing her pregnancies. When a widowed aunt takes an interest in Kambili, her family begins to unravel and re-form itself in unpredictable ways. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, live a regal life in impoverished Nigeria. Their father is a very powerful man who owns many factories, lavishes money on his church and the local schools, and publishes a newspaper that is outspokenly critical of the country's repressive regime. But their marble palace often feels like a prison because the children are terrified of their father's temper; at home, he is a religious tyrant who exerts a fanatical control over their schedules and often beats their mother. They are overjoyed when their father unexpectedly allows them to visit his sister, Ifeoma, whose three children are quick to laugh, engage in vehement discussions, and pitch in to help the family cope with food and petrol shortages. Kambili, who is almost rendered mute in the presence of her boisterous cousins, slowly starts to open up. This impressive first novel is redolent in its depiction of the Nigerian countryside and generates a palpable narrative tension over what's to become of Kambili and Jaja's newfound sense of freedom. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“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 Garci´a Ma´rquez, Alex Haley, and Chinua Achebe.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune

From the Inside Flap

Fifteen-year-old Kambili's world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"One of the best novels to come out of Africa in years."--The Baltimore Sun
"A breathtaking debut. . .[Adichie] is very much the 21st-century daughter of that other great Igbo novelist, Chinua Achebe." - The Washington Post Book World

"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." - The New York Times Book Review

"At once the portrait of a country and a family, of terrible choices and the tremulous pleasure of an odd, rare purple hibiscus blooming amid a conforming sea of red ones"--San Francisco Chronicle

"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

"Adichie renders this coming-of-age story beautifully. Every character has dimension; every description resonates like cello music. . . . [Her] strong, lyrical voice earns her a place on the shelf squarely next to Gabriel Garc'a M‡rquez and Alex Haley and Chinua Achebe." --San Diego Union-Tribune

"A fiction writer's job is to create a world so detailed, evocative and emotionally true that, like Alice, you fall into it. Adichie does exactly that, placing among the frangipani trees and bougainvillea of her native country a family demoralized and degraded by a father's cruelty. Amazing." --The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[A] splendid debut." --Vanity Fair

"Stunning. . . .With Purple Hibiscus, Adichie has established herself as a writer of enormous promise and with important stories to tell." --Bust

"Remarkable. Kambili's voice is sensitive and unassuming. It is also, by turns, funny, full of young and passionate longing, and crushingly sad. In addition to its lovely, spare writing and complex characters, [Purple Hibiscus] has a swift, seamless story line and makes politically tumultuous and intricately textured Nigeria completely accessible. [Adichie is] a budding star on the rise." --The Hartford Courant

"A sensitive and touching story of a child exposed too early to religious intolerance and the uglier side of the Nigerian state." --J. M. Coetzee

"Adichie writes with subtlety and cleanliness. Her hushed tone and economy of words invoke a wise calm, and the inclusion of animals, flowers and trees as characters suggests a connectedness with the Earth and its forces that gives the narrative a romance and African sensibility. Elegant turns of phrase thrive throughout the work, along with a thousand themes." --Black Issues Book Review

"A remarkably original debut, at once seductive, tender, and true. . . . Purple Hibiscus is the best debut I've read since Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things." --Jason Cowley, The Times (London) journalist and literary editor of New Statesman

"[A] wonderful debut. . . . Adichie skillfully blends the traditional story-as-parable approach with the more . . . introspective Western approach to novel writing. . . . Purple Hibiscus is more than entertainment. It is political satire and a call for change for a nation smothering under a lack of free speech." --San Antonio Express-News

"A novel of tragic beauty and exquisite tension. . . . A monumental literary achievement and a heartfelt prayer for Nigeria." --Jervey Tervalon, author of Dead Above Ground and Understand This

"Radiant. . . . It takes an incredible talent to write knowingly about adolescent turmoil, the cultural ties that bind generations and the demanding forces that shape our lives. Adichie . . . possesses this genius. . . . Kambili's story could be recreated anywhere, but not with the same intensity Adichie brings to this breathtaking novel." --The Sanford Herald (Sanford, North Carolina)

"A heartfelt novel that sheds dramatic light on the ugly truths of family violence. Adichie has wrested moments of pure beauty and grace out of the siblings' quiet rebellion." --Time Out New York

"Replete with beauty and horror, Adichie's novel of self-hatred, fear and family, with its political/allegorical overtones, is a moving, sometimes breathtaking debut." --Herald Sunday (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

"Vivid, authoritative, and true to the experiences of a teenage girl in contemporary middle-class Nigeria. Kambili's plainspoken narration adds texture to the novel. [Adichie is a] writer to watch." --Boston Phoenix --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About 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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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."

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