From Publishers Weekly
By turns luminous and horrific, this debut ensnares the reader from the first page and lingers in the memory long after its tragic end. First-person narrator Kambili Achike is a 15-year-old Nigerian girl growing up in sheltered privilege in a country ravaged by political strife and personal struggle. She and her brother, Jaja, and their quiet mother, who speaks "the way a bird eats, in small amounts," live this life of luxury because Kambili's father is a wealthy man who owns factories, publishes a politically outspoken newspaper and outwardly leads the moral, humble life of a faithful Catholic. The many grateful citizens who have received his blessings and material assistance call him omelora, "The One Who Does for the Community." Yet Kambili, Jaja and their mother see a side to their provider no one else does: he is also a religious fanatic who regularly and viciously beats his family for the mildest infractions of his interpretation of an exemplary Christian life. The children know better than to discuss their home life with anyone else; "there was so much that we never told." But when they are unexpectedly allowed to visit their liberated and loving Aunty Ifeoma, a widowed university professor raising three children, family secrets and tensions bubble dangerously to the surface, setting in motion a chain of events that allow Kambili to slowly blossom as she begins to question the authority of the precepts and adults she once held sacred. In a soft, searing voice, Adichie examines the complexities of family, faith and country through the haunted but hopeful eyes of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood. Lush, cadenced and often disconcerting, this is an accomplished first effort.
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Kambili, 15, and her older brother, Jaja, live under a brutal dictatorship in their native Nigeria and also in their home. Their father beats them and their mother for the slightest perceived offense. Papa is also a fanatic Christian who gives freely of his immense wealth and is admired by all. The children's world changes when they are allowed to visit their Aunty Ifeoma, who teaches in a university town nearby and lives a relaxed life on little money. Her children talk back, have messy rooms, and help cook wonderful food. And their beloved grandfather, Papa-Nnukwu, favors the old gods. Kambili meets Father Amadi, a liberal priest, and falls in love with him. Upon Nnukwu's death, Papa arrives to take them home, but Jaja now questions his authority, and when Papa finds Kambili with a picture of her heathen grandfather, he kicks and beats her so severely that she is hospitalized. Mama poisons Papa's food, but Jaja confesses to the murder and is imprisoned. The Nigerian government falls; Aunty Ifeoma loses her job and leaves with her children for America; and Father Amadi leaves for his next assignment. Yet there is hope that after three years in prison, Jaja will be released, and Mama finally smiles. Aunty Ifeoma and their cousins have brought joy and laughter to Kambili and Jaja, and that cannot be taken away. This is a harsh story, almost unbearable at first, but beautifully written.Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
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