By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Narrator: Lisette Lecat
This was my first audible listen of the year and SUCH A GOOD BOOK! Probably my favorite author across the board. She is amazing, and the way that she ties compelling story lines with spot-on symbolism and recent Nigerian history is out of this world. (I boycotted this book for awhile because the cover scheme is different from that of Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, and it turns out I’m crazy, so I compromised with myself to listen to it instead of buying the physical copy, and girl am I happy I did that!)
This book is told from the perspective of a 15 year old girl who lives with her older brother, their mother, and their abusive and fanatically religious father. At the beginning of the book, Kambili has learned to be submissive and meek, and she wont talk unless asked a specific question. Most of her thoughts involve ways that she can please her father, or wishing she had said something clever that would deserve his praise. Her older brother JaJa is a little less submissive, and very protective of Kambili. At first we only really see Papa as majorly emotionally abusive, but later it becomes quite clear that given the right set of circumstances he is extremely physically abusive as well…all in the name of pleasing god.
Aunty Ifeoma is really the only one who calls Papa on his sh*t. So when she conceives a teeeny white lie to get Kambili and JaJa to be allowed to visit her and her 3 children in Nsukka, it is the first time that the Kambili and Jaja are able to exist in a sphere that is separate from their father’s.
At first the Nsukka cousins do not know what to make of Kambili. As the slightly more outgoing older brother, JaJa seems to fit in with his cousins easier, but Kambili has a difficult time adjusting to life outside of the eye of her father. She does not know how to manage the assumptions that Amaka makes about the life that she lives versus the truth about that life.
Papa comes to pick up his kids when he realizes that his dying father – who he views as a heathen – is staying in the same home as the children. His abuses land Kambili in the hospital, and when she is better, Aunty Ifeoma insists that the kids come back to stay with her while Kambili continues to heal. This time, it seems that Aunty Ifeoma had a little chat with Amaka because she is open and welcoming to her cousin, and instead of making constant jabs, she learns to become her friend.
Eventually, a week or so later, the kids learn that Papa was abusive to Mama and landed her in the hospital as well. But she wont leave him. She doesnt know how to leave him. And so, he comes to Nsukka to retrieve his family once more.
The plot twist: Everything from here on out is even more of a spoiler than the above sections: While Aunty Ifeoma is weighing the options of getting her family visas to move to America, JaJa insists that the two kids are going to Nsukka to visit her for a final visit. This final visit culminates in a call from Mama that Papa was found dead at his office. When the kids come home, she tells them that. “they found the poison” because it turns out that omg ready for this! IT WAS HER! Trying to protect her family, she had been slipping poison into his tea for weeks. But when the cops come, JaJa immediately turns himself in to protect his mother.
I have to tell you, I did not see that one coming. The symbolism as it relates to Nigeria is wonderful, and deserving of its own post (which i will write shortly)
Wow. Great read.
“Hands down this is the best book i can ever remember” – Julia’s interpretation of what Dashboard Confessional meant to sing