After reading about the Nigerian food in the book, we decided to have some at Afrika Fusion to go along with our discussion. Though they serve mostly East African food, they have some West African options too. Megan and I tried the fufu ogbono--fufu being mashed, dough-like yam that you pinch off and dip into sauce. The ogbono was a spicy, crawfish-flavored broth with chunks of goat meat. Natalie, Matthew, and Kristen had variations on meat stews (They were a little too bony for most of us) with green slaws on the side. Our waitress, who was Nigerian, happened also to be a fan of Chimamada Adichie.
There is a universal simplicity to the narrative, but the fact that it unfolds in Nigeria gives us (as American readers) a glimpse into a vivid world of tropical fruits, multilingual characters, and unsteady politics. Although, at the same time, the book doesn't feel far from here: Kambili's family lives in a big house with cable television, and the kids are chauffeured to and from private school.
Despite its strengths, we did agree on several points of weakness. First, the book is primarily structured as a flash-back. The trick is stilted and gimmicky, especially when we finally catch up to the opening scene. It feels as if someone thrust this idea upon Adichie in an MFA workshop along with the packaged, ill-toned ending. There is also an ambitious shout-out in the first sentence to Chinua Achebe's classic Things Fall Apart. Adichie, though talented, doesn't quite live up to Achebe here.
All in all, we liked Purple Hibiscus and look forward to reading more from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Robert highly recommends Americanah, and our waitress tonight suggested we check out her short stories in The Thing Around Your Neck.
Obiora was pounding a yellow mango against the living room wall. He would do that until the inside became a soft pulp. Then he would bite a tiny hole in one end of the fruit and suck it until the seed wobbled alone inside the skin, like a person in oversize clothing.
"People have crushes on priests all the time, you know. It's exciting to have to deal with God as a rival."