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Purple Hibiscus: A Novel Paperback – April 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616202416
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616202415
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (440 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who grew up in Nigeria, was shortlisted for the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. Her work has been selected by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the BBC Short Story Awards and has appeared in various literary publications, including Zoetrope and The Iowa Review.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In Purple Hibiscus, we listen to the plaintive voice of Kambili, whose skill at language does not extend to the spoken word, as those necessary words remain trapped in her throat, a girl who knows her place and keeps her silence. In Kambili's family, there are too many things "we never talk about". Growing up in the political upheaval of Nigeria, Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, are poster children for domestic violence, quiet, well-mannered, high achievers that their father points to with pride, "his" children: extensions of himself in the world. A generous man, beloved in their village, only Eugene Achike's nuclear family suffers his rages behind closed doors.
Jaja's emotions are closer to the surface, more accessible to his spirit of rebellion. But Kambili is her mother's daughter, cautious, constrained and eager to please. Her slow awakening is all the more significant because of the tremendous act of will necessary to break free of her conditioning. This experience is agonizing for Kambili, like the prickling of a limb that has fallen asleep. Her adolescent physical and emotional flowering enhanced by newly found self-expression and self-awareness, Kambili is a product of a world that leaves children unprotected, at the mercy of a merciless man. She is the observer, the reporter, emotionless as she describes the constant abuse. Like a sieve, Kambili filters every action, sorting, learning.
Eugene passes on the lessons he has learned in his own childhood, taught by brutal Catholic missionaries who used temporal punishment; the abused is the abuser. Rigid religious instruction, intolerant and unforgiving, is the tool with which this man terrorizes his wife and children.
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on September 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Purple Hibiscus is a vivid, beautifully written novel about a 14 year-old girl named Kambili growing up in a stifling Catholic household in Nigeria. The story pairs the collapse of the family's strong patriarch who frequently physically abuses his family alongside with the deterioration of the Nigerian society's infrastructure as it undergoes a military coup. Kambili is a very sheltered child who is incredibly insecure because of the repressive regimen her father forces her to follow. Yet, she is looked down upon by her peers and initially scorned by her outspoken cousin because she is viewed as a privileged snob. When she visits her aunt and cousins she learns how to assert herself and become a more independent individual.

Adichie presents you with a portrait of domestic violence very much from the inside. We see the father through Kambili's eyes as a pillar of the community and someone she genuinely loves. Therefore the abuse he administers is seen only as a gesture of love for her own good. It's only when Kambili is pulled out of this horrific environment that she is able to see how wrong it is and understand that this abuse is not normal. While this novel really involves you in the struggles of its characters, it also shows you a lot about the complex political and religious struggles occurring in Nigeria. It's one of those wonderful stories that can broaden your perspective while being incredibly emotionally engaging. This is an amazing first novel from such a young writer and I hope she will continue to write many more books with as much heart and soul as Purple Hibiscus.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Those who know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her short stories have high expectations of her. "Purple Hibiscus" lives up to expectations.
"Purple Hibiscus" is a coming-of-age story set in Nigeria during the Abacha military regime of the mid-1990s, told through the eyes of 15-year-old Kambili Achike. Kambili's father Eugene, a wealthy Igbo businessman and newspaper publisher, is in many ways a heroic figure; he is a pillar of the church, loyal and generous to his employees and home village and one of the few publishers with the courage to stand up to the military government. The same fanatic religious faith that feeds his stern public morality, however, leads him to ostracize his father and physically abuse his wife and children.
Kambili, who has lived under her father's hand throughout her life, is a shadow of a person as the novel begins. As the story progresses, she learns independence and self-reliance from her university-professor aunt Ifeoma, her teenage cousin Amaka and the iconoclastic priest Father Amadi. At the same time, the deterioration of the country and her father's increasingly abusive behavior drive the family closer to collapse.
"Purple Hibiscus" is a powerful and sophisticated first novel, and comparison between Adichie and Igbo literary giant Chinua Achebe is not out of place. Achebe's novels, though, tend toward the epic, using their characters to tell the story of their country. Adichie has also spoken in this voice, in short stories such as "Half of a Yellow Sun," but "Purple Hibiscus" is a more intimate portrait. Politics sometimes intrudes through scenes of student riots and the persecution of one of Eugene's editors, but most of the political events happen offstage and are seen through their effect on the family. For all the powerful sense of place in "Purple Hibiscus," Kambili's story is one that could happen anywhere.
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