Eleven years on, Storeadtime floats a review on this remarkably debut still roving giant strides. It was smartly written, with its thrills and aawh’s in proper gauge. A fiction that sets in south-eastern region Nigeria, cutting across a variety of spheres as at the time, and into the future. Politically, the novel is well armed with knowledge of its colonial history, while confronting the upheaval of the present and expecting a better democratic future. Culturally, it integrates the unique characteristic of the Igbo people’s festivity; masquerading, fast fading. Religiously, despite the many years behind after embracing the Catholic faith, there is a partly emancipation from the old traditional belief, as well as its continued headstrong practice. Purple Hibiscus is infused with eloquent originality, plus intriguing creativity.
We read the novel in the eyes of kambili. She is a teenage girl, the second and only girl in a family of four. With ‘Jaja’ the only brother, and Aunty Beatrice, they live in a trite of stuffed air, chiselled and dictated by their Roman Catholic conservative father and husband, Eugene. However, things get rough when Jaja doesn’t go for communion, worse still, talks back to Papa Eugene at home. “The wafer gives me bad breath, pg14” Jaja tabled and it was more than enough to fuel Eugene. “…then I will die.” Fear had darkened Jaja’s eyes to the colour of coal tar, but he looked Pap in the face now. “Then I will die, Papa. pg 15” To Kambili who was astounded at the gusto; “I stared at Jaja. Had something come loose in his head? Pg14.”
A challenge to the usual way of life is provoked when they visit their cousins and Aunty Ifeoma in the university campus of Nsukka. Big surprises were bound to follow, and was first rolled on when a shorter grace before meal was said, unlike when Eugene led in their house in Enugu. Against the stereotyped anticipated opinions they voiced in their mansion, rather here; “words spurted from everyone, often not seeking and not getting any response…but my cousins seemed to simply speak and speak and speak.” In this visit, Amaka poses some hostility when she gives her odd looks and sneer because she feels her a big man’s daughter who is overly protected from simple day to day chores. And Kambili, in her crystal clear conscience will reply succinct when she says she doesn’t know how to do any. Over all, Aunty Ifeoma, Eugene’s sister would be on hand to reprimand her daughter, as Kambili just watched without picking offence. Moreso, Kambili doesn’t talk back to Amaka, not that she doesn’t have words but doesn’t know what it feels like to talk back. Following the abrupt end of their visit prompted by Eugene’s discovery of what he considered against his faith involving his father-Papa Nnukwu, they still long for Nsukka, for the freeness that characterise Aunty Ifeoma’s good humoured flat; together with the memorable visits of their priest friend, Father Amadi.
The friendly air in Nsukka is proven once again when they attempt another visit. By this time, the sneering character of Amaka had given way to a joviality Kambili was surprised to encounter. The comradeship she and Jaja shared with their cousins and Aunty Ifeoma and Father Amadi is short lived when both parties are heading for America and Germany respectively. It would seem they should have discovered Nsukka long ago than sooner.
With the farewells coming piecemeal, the exit of Eugene proves all the more devastating. His was a death so sudden, because of his person, endured the suggestion of an autopsy in the third world country. Jaja’s courage and manliness is not defeated when he stands in for someone he loves for the murder. Kambili begins to know how rich her family was and would begin to plan visits after Jaja’s release, to old friends. Aunty Beatrice who has lived in the shadow for too long breaks away when she poisoned Eugene’s tea; “I started putting the poison in his tea…Sisi got it for me…pg 294” no matter how loud blew the whistle on her behalf, nobody believed her. The bad government is all the more suspected. For serial months of horror behind bars until now, a few days to Jaja’s release, his love for Kambili and Mama are as always, ever new.