“We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew. Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to know.”
Kambili is a 15 year old Nigerian girl, growing up in what would be a rather privileged life with her family, led by her father owns a successful factory and is held in high esteem by his family, society, but most importantly by the Catholic Church. But Kambili, her brother Jaja and their mother suffer greatly for their father and husbands belief, forced into a life of rigidity and fear.
It’s a bit of a cop out I know, but I struggled to relate to Kambili. I did not grow up oppressed by or afraid of my father and I never felt silenced by a fear of retribution from any higher power, but that would be my single criticism of the book and to be honest it’s not exactly a criticism. I don’t think that as a reader I was expected to relate to her, but rather to use her experiences to be able to relate to others who may experience a similar situation. It’s easy to pay no mind to people who live nowhere near and nothing like ourselves. It was enlightening to read about a culture so completely separate from anything I’ve personally experienced, and Adichie describes this time and place and people so vividly, it’s impossible not to feel like I’ve been there and seen it, somehow. It wasn’t the most dramatic of stories, Adichie doesn’t force her reader to take a side or demonize people who perhaps would be in other books. Kambli’s faith or love for her father is never shaken even in the face of horrific cruelty and it’s not because she is young, or afraid, or naive, or even because she believes that he is right in his horrific behavior. It’s because she understands that he believes that he is acting out of kindness and she can’t not love him for that, even if it hurts.