Can you be proud of someone but still want to stay from them?
Can you love someone to death but still want to kill them?
While reading the Purple Hibiscus written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I was struck by how a person can be wholesome yet so flawed. Set in the Nigerian backdrop, Kambili and Jaja have a father who is rigid catholic. He is involved in every little aspect of their life and, in return, they devote him. He is also respected by people from the community for uplifting them with his wealth. However, what looks perfect from outside is far from it when you take a closer look.
He is an abusive husband and father. He gaslights and torments his family every time they stray from the norms set by him.
The story is narrated by a 15-year-old Kambili who is in awe of her father. Due to his stringent nature, she always seeks to please him in any way possible. But, this slowly begins to change, after she and her brother take a vacation to their aunty’s place.
There is so much that is still silent between Jaja and me. Perhaps we will talk more with time, or perhaps we never will be able to say it all, to clothe things in words, things that have long been naked.Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I was drawn to Kambili’s innocent voice. She, from her eyes, showed me that no amount of wealth compares to the freedom of being yourself. You see a battle raging inside her as she comprehends the actions of her father. The readers are left to decipher the wordless communication that goes on between Kambili and Jaja. Adichie does a brilliant job at drawing such a complex character who falls in the grey zone. Amidst this, she also explains the oppressive government in Nigeria that shot citizens who spoke against it.
Throughout the book, I loved that Adichie didn’t depend on adjectives to call out the wrongs; it was rather communicated to us slowly and subtlely. Do not be misled to think that this is a sad, heartbreaking ordeal. It is a beautiful story of a girl coming of age, who is slowly forming her own identity and falling in love with the harsh reality that surrounds her.