Purple Hibiscus is the first novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is astonishing that it could be anyone’s debut novel. The characters are so alive that I felt I could reach out and touch them. The pain in the story builds itself inside of you until, like the characters, you burst from the sheer weight of it. Purple Hibiscus holds tension at familial, political, and religious levels. They weave together in an honest struggle for a family in Nigeria.
Kambili, a young teen, and her brother Jaja are the children of a wealthy and respected businessman. The story starts almost pleasantly but quickly the abuse becomes evident. Life is not as pleasant as it would originally seem. Religious fanaticism rules their lives and all of their relationships. I love how Adichie shows how it bleeds into all levels of Kambili’s life. Kambili is unable to communicate with others, worships and hates her father, struggles with understanding herself, and cannot even recognize the sound of her own laughter. Abuse and oppression are not contained, they bleed into every aspect of one’s life.
Kambili and Jaja are able to find freedom with their Aunt and cousins in Nsukka. The freedom they find there is what inspired my tea choice for the novel. When reading, Nsukka felt like a breath of fresh air on a stifling day and it iced citrus green tea gives me that same feeling. That refreshing nature is needed as pain continues to bloom for the characters. Adichie allows Kambili and Jaja to handle their pain differently as one character grows and the other becomes bitter.
Adichie is a uniquely talented author with a gift for making her characters fully human. Their pain, their flaws, their beauty, and their insecurities are developed naturally and fully until they fill the space next to you while you read.