“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?”
Purple Hibiscus is the story of a family living with a terrible secret. Kambili, lives with her patriarchal father, mother and brother in Nigeria. Her father is charismatic, generous and extremely involved with the Catholic Church. Villagers bow down to him for his big heartedness and the local priest shares a bond with him. At home, he is fanatic to the point of being oppressive towards his wife, daughter and son. Obedience is expected out of each and every one of them under the guise of the Lord. However, a visit to their aunt changes the way Kambili and her brother see the world. The veil of tyranny is lifted and a whole new world is presented to them.
Chimamanda’s writing is simple and exquisite. There are no other words for it. Her expressive way of writing makes the seemingly usual things in life appear extraordinary. The book is about a multitude of issues. It is about right and wrong, childhood and adulthood, patriarchy and what it entails, responsibility and submission, religion and its different interpretations and so much more. It is about the blurred lines between these issues and the greys that exist in our lives.
Chimamanda draws out empathy for all her characters. Throughout the book, you understand the extreme devotion and misrepresentation of religion, because you see it every day, everywhere in your own life. It is the current scenario even after all these years. You understand the acts committed under patriarchy and religion. You empathize with Papa and Mama because after all, it is what it is. You empathize with Kambili, through all her nervousness, anxieties, waiting to break free but too afraid to fly demeanor, because you are her. You would follow Jaja (the brother/the son) till the very end because you feel the responsibility that he has felt too. And that is the power of her writing. At the end of it, you do not hate or love just one character alone but you see them on this spectrum of love and hate instead.
The story leaves you feeling shocked and gutted like you have been punched to the point of a breakdown. It will leave you feeling hollow and lost. It will leave you questioning the world we live in and the God we choose to follow.