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Book review.

By Catherine NyomendaPublished 4 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - December 2023

I had always wanted to read Chimamanda’s books. To be honest, it’s because everyone was reading “Americanah” and because of FOMO I wanted to join the bandwagon. I then realized that she had more books and they were all super hyped. After watching her TED talk “We should all be feminists” I thought she was amazing. When I got “Purple Hibiscus” I understood the hype because the book was captivating.

Purple Hibiscus is a novel written by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2003. It’s hard to believe that she was only 25 when she wrote this book because it’s incredible. The novel is set in Nigeria's post-colonial period. The story is written in the form of a soliloquy, in that you feel like you are in Kambili’s ( the protagonist) head throughout the novel. The reader is invited to her world and thoughts through her point of view.

Chimamanda Adichie’s debut novel Purple Hibiscus is the coming-of-age story of a young girl Kambili who is abused and controlled by her father to the extent that the laughter in her Aunt’s home feels strange to her. Her father, a religious hypocrite within the walls of his home, is a respected and loved man in the society due to his charitable nature.

The basic context of the story is the turn that takes place in Kambili’s life due to political changes and the life-changing results of these changes. Kambili and her brother Jaja have to live with their Aunt and her children in Nsukka, a small University town, and get introduced to a life that is the opposite of their luxurious setting back home. In my opinion, it is the loving and independent nature of the new lifestyle that makes it easier for them to adjust without complaining since those two things are exactly what lack at home. There is love in their house but not compassion, and that love is the forced kind, the kind that you have to learn.

I shudder to think about the Kambili's trajectory through life post-Purple Hibiscus. What would it look like?

“Kambili's attachment to her father is a kind of trauma bonding. Most children feel strong connections to their parents. It's hard for them to detach - especially when they are young - even in cases where they are subjected to indescribable cruelty. There is always this hope that light will come, that they will be loved. When many abused children become adults, they marry their abusers (so to speak). Men who remind them of their abusive fathers, women who remind them of their abusive mothers, and so on. It sounds counterintuitive but makes sense when we think about how trauma damages that part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that is responsible for executive functioning like making rational choices. They go for what is familiar and it's hard to stop. It is not because they are weak or stupid.”

Favorite excerpt from the book.

“The educated ones leave, the ones with the potential to right the wrongs. They leave the weak behind. The tyrants continue to reign because the weak cannot resist. Do you not see that it is a cycle? Who will break that cycle?

“Papa sat down at the table and poured his tea from the china tea set with pink flowers on the edges. I waited for him to ask Jaja and me to take a sip, as he always did. A love sip, he called it, because you shared the little things you loved with the people you love.”

“His letters dwell on me. I carry them around because they are long and detailed. After all, they remind me of my worthiness because they tug at my feelings. Some months ago, he wrote that he did not want me to seek the whys, because some things happen for which we can formulate no whys, for which whys simply do not exist and, perhaps, are not necessary. He did not mention Papa — he hardly mentions Papa in his letters — but I knew what he meant, I understood that he was stirring what I was afraid to stir myself.”

“There are people, she once wrote, who think that we cannot rule ourselves because the few times we tried, we failed, as if all the others who rule themselves today got it right the first time. It is like telling a crawling baby who tries to walk, and then falls back on his buttocks, to stay there. As if the adults walking past him did not all crawl, once”

“We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew. Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to know.”

The only thing I’d change in Purple Hibiscus is affording a little more time to find out what happens next, after Jaja’s release from prison. Perhaps there might be a sequel one day so that we can learn not more about hate from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie but about the kind of healthy, consistent, unconditional love needed to heal the Jajas and Kambilis in our societies and about the availability of people within and outside the family who can and are willing to provide it.


About the Creator

Catherine Nyomenda

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  2. Eye opening

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  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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  5. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (6)

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  • Test4 months ago

    Amazing job! Keep up the outstanding work—congrats!

  • ROCK 4 months ago

    I am definitely going to read it now. I personally have experience d trauma bonding and my book group in Sweden needs to turn read your review. Thanks for this enticing piece!

  • k eleanor4 months ago

    Congratulations on top story! 🎉

  • JBaz4 months ago

    I have not heard of her, and am looking forward to her books Congratulations

  • Novel Allen4 months ago

    I wrote a piece about her some time back, not as wonderful as yours. I think she is a beautiful talented and strong woman. Just as you are, and will be Catherine. Congrats on a beautifully written story. Where are you, do you get paid for your Top Story. I think Africa is not a Stripe location.

  • Gosh, I feel so sorry for Kambili and Jaja. Trauma bonds can be so detrimental. Loved your review!

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