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Purple Hibiscus: 07/02/21

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is set in Nigeria in the weeks leading up to and just following a military coup. Fifteen year old Kambili, her brother Jaja, and their mother are living under their own oppressive regime, that of their abusive, super-devote Catholic father.

The danger of the coup and the gentle persuasiveness of a paternal aunt gives the siblings a chance to see life outside of the strict confines of their father's interpretation of Catholic teachings. It's also a chance to reconnect with their Igbo culture and beliefs.

The novel is relatively short, only three hundred pages. But it's a dense and tense one. There is the danger inside the family. There is the danger of the coup in the form of a crumbling infrastructure and in the military checkpoints along the roads, and the arrests of various protestors.

Kambili's journey both physical and intellectual can be mapped on the road narrative spectrum as an outlier. While she does travel with her brother they rarely interact and the majority of her narrative is an internal, highly personal one. Her trip to the aunt's home is one that ends up highlighting how privileged (00) she is relative to her aunt, grandfather, and cousins.

Kambili's destination is home (66). It's the literal travel between her original home and her aunt's home. But it's also the expansion of her understanding of what home could be. It's learning that a safe loving environment can exist outside of the narrowly built world her father has constructed for his wife and children.

The route home is the interstate (00). Literally it's the road between the homes. But it's also the straight and narrow path that Kambili has been forced to live under to keep her father happy. It's a path she has internalized and struggles to break free of while living with her aunt and cousins.

Summarized, Purple Hibiscus is about a privileged traveler finding a new sense of home via the interstate (006600).

Five stars

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