It took me a while to review this book because it affected me far more than I expected. Very rarely do I read books set in the ‘real world’. Usually I’m all about wizards or vampires or far away lands, but sometimes you just need to come back to earth and read something honest and real. Chimamanda is such a prevalent figure in the feminist movement right now also, so I felt this book was a must read.
I really liked Kambili, the main character. She was goodhearted, yet naive, and loyal, but perhaps to a fault. This novel was such a reality check for me. First and foremost it made me stop and really assess how lucky I am to be a girl living in a Western country. I have opportunities and a lifestyle available to me that some little girls can’t comprehend – the main character Kambili, being one of them. I have loving parents and a father than would never have laid a hand on me. And I have the freedom to chose whichever religion I may or may not want to believe in. I find it very difficult to imagine what it’s like living a life dominated so heavily by religion and overbearing strict rules, but this novel really painted this picture almost frighteningly well.
Some moments really stuck out for me – Kambili’s father inflicting various levels of mental and physical abuse on his wife, and children, being many of these moments. These were very painful to read, and must have been even harder to write. Yet these hard truth’s need to be told, as sadly, they are often not merely fiction, but the reality of some people’s lives.
As much as this story is upsetting in parts, it is also incredibly uplifting in others. Kambili’s aunt, Ifeoma, is such a powerhouse of a character, I really loved her. She’s a very intelligent woman, a lecturer at their local university, very resourceful, and full of love and joy. It’s amazing to think how she has been brought up the same as her brother Eugene, Kambili’s strict father, and yet they have turned out polar opposites. The fact that Eugene is so giving towards his community, and so respected and revered among everyone around him is mind boggling to me. It’s scary how some people can become so blinded by their faith, and use it to justify acts of such horrifying cruelty against your own family, those you should be most driven to protect.
I really enjoyed reading about Kambili’s home life, and then to read about the differences she experiences while visiting Aunty Ifeoma’s. Suddenly being dropped into such a liberal environment, with no schedules or rules really, although there are chores, Kambili doesn’t initally cope well with being able to process her own thoughts. She doesn’t know how to voice her own opinions. In fact, she doesn’t really have her own opinions in the beginning. Not only is she very shy, but she’s never been able to think for herself, she’s never known any other way. Her Father was all and everything to her.
Seeing Kambili start to discover her sexuality, and to see her growing relationship with Father Amadi unfold, was really great to read, too. I think it was uncovered in a really natural and sweet way, which I haven’t seen much of in novels I have read thus far. In conclusion, I’m really glad I read this novel. It’s not the type of story I chose to read about often, but I’m glad voices like Chimamanda’s are being given a platform and are being heard. I gave it 4 stars as it was very educational for me and I really enjoyed exploring the depth of these characters. Also, learning about worlds different to my own is very important for me and I think I will be trying to read more novels like this, starting with the other novels Chimamanda has released so far.
Thanks for reading!