This story revolves around Kambili, a young girl born into a family of a devout Catholic father, academic aunt, submissive mother, traditionalist grandfather and renegade brother. It explores the conflict between Christianity (read Catholicism) and traditionalism, where the former is billed as the ‘superior’ form, whereas the latter is portrayed as the ‘pagan’ alternative. Kambili’s father, Papa, a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic, embodies the dual being who tries so hard to be a ‘prefect’ Catholic that he will spare nothing or no one, in achieving that facade of existence.
His life is a combination of unsustainable piousness, self-defeating strictness, unacknowledged anger issues and a troubled soul in denial. This miasma of being manifests itself in various forms such as when he barters his wife till she loses their unborn child, cuts off his son’s finger for missing Holy Communion, bans his children from spending more than fifteen minutes with his father, who refuses to give up his African traditional ways and burns his daughter’s feet with scalding water, because she seemed to have a soft spot for his father. On the other hand, Papa was as magnanimous as they come.
Quintessential of Chimamanda, she pays homage to her rich Igbo culture by peppering this beautiful piece of work with Igbo phrases and Igbo culture! Unlike other men, Papa refused to take up other women. He remained loyal to his wife. He helped the poor, tipped hawkers, and catered for the school fees of more than a hundred people in the village.
She highlights the danger of a military state. She artistically shows how such a state only begets violence, coups and counter-coups, assassinations, nihilism and impunity. Soldiers mete out brutal force on civilians, harass, frame and torture the academics, make life a living hell for the independent press, and brand anyone who upsets the status quo as ‘enemy of the state’.
Written by one the most gifted and talented authors on the planet, Purple Hibiscus is a well-written book that interpolates pertinent issues in society. Chimamanda wears her African heritage proudly! She speaks to issues that are critical and need to be addressed! She is such a powerful author!
REVIEW BY AURA BILY OSOGO