As achristian my entire life, this was a particularly painful read. In university, my friends and I coined a term “too churchy” as reference to people who were over the top Christians. By this we meant that these individuals thought they were holier than thou and used their Christianity as excuse for everything, for rash intolerant behavior and mostly a lack of personality.
Purple Hibiscus takes through the life of Kambili, growing up in a christian household, however this family, although perfect from the outside is an example of religious extremism. Her father expects perfection from her and her brother controlling them through the use of a timetable that tells them when to eat and when to study or watch TV or do anything really. Her desire to please Papa often comes across as desperately sad, a plea for a father’s love and acceptance. Often when she is doing something she knows he wouldn’t approve of , she can hear his voice so clearly, its like he is there with her. Chimamanda convey’s this longing of a daughter seeking her father’s approval quite well.
Kambili’s subsequent love for Father Amadi for me felt like she was using him somehow as a substitute for male attention she never received as a child, or perhaps because she was the first person to truly compliment her and introduce her to a more carefree part of herself she never knew existed. Also, because of her age, it makes sense why she would fall for him, as she’s around an age where she’s bound to explore parts of herself and didn’t seem to have been able to do this before. However, I did feel it was also an exploration of some reports that have emerged over the years about the Catholic church.
I also love the relationship themes explored between Kambili’s father and aunt, which tends to be the case in most African families where a wealthy relative wants to control everyone through the use of what I usually refer to as the economic whip. It also on the surface explores how women are usually marginalized and disadvantaged economically which is why for years Kambili’s mother said silent as her and children suffered cruelly from her husbands vicious temper and why even in death no one bothered to investigate the horrors they suffered at his hands.
Overall, its an incredible read that I could not put down. An excellent read, highly recommended.