Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

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Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: May 19th 2020 by Gallery / Saga Press
Original Title
The Only Good Indians
ISBN
1982136456 (ISBN13: 9781982136451)
Edition Language
English
Preorder here:

Synopsis:

The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

Review:

This is my first experience with Stephen Graham Jones. I have heard great things about Mongrels and even have a copy I have been meaning to read. Most of my reading life is filled with good intentions. It was not until I was listening to the podcast by Max Booth III called, Ghoulish where he and Stephen Graham Jones discuss the slasher horror genre, and some of the plot of The Only Good Indians, that I was thinking about him again. Then the publisher approved my copy on NetGalley. I was reading other things and this one kind of got pushed to the side. I finally started to read it last week. I was not prepared for what was to come.

The Only Good Indians starts with Lewis, a 30ish Blackfeet who is living with his white wife off of the reservation, rebuilding a motorcycle, delivering mail, and getting playfully harangued about this by his old running buddies. Lewis has a weird experience while trying to fix a light above the ceiling fan, seeing the haunt that he has pushed in the back of his mind for the past ten years, a moment that he much rather not talk about with anyone. Shortly after, a flirty coworker, Shaney, comes along, showing up here and there, not necessarily allowing him to keep his mind at ease, Lewis tries hard to ignore her. This of course does not work as well as he had hoped, and after a few meetings and clues, Lewis realizes that Shaney might be more than she appears to be.  This is a nice spooky novel with a little mystery and a little some weird things going on….

And then shit goes sideways.

From the middle of the first part to the very end, Stephen Graham Jones had me hooked. I loved every aspect of this, and this is one of those novels where i did not sleep because I wanted to know what was going on next. I had a moment with my wife while reading this book because I was ignoring everything else around me, including her and the children. I could not explain that it was because this novel is one of the best horror novels I have ever read or that I was kicking myself for not reading Stephen Graham Jones sooner.

According to the author on the Ghoulish podcast, his definition of a slasher novel is one that is built on revenge. This is definitely a slasher novel by this definition, and it is cut into three parts. All three parts are equally interesting and all of the characters are memorable. Even though this will not get the attention that it deserves, I bet that most everyone who reads it will think that it is incredible as well. This is solidly on my best of the year list. 

I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I will be buying a physical copy as soon as it comes out because it must be in my collection.

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Review: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 31st 2020 by Harper
Original Title
Valentine
ISBN
0062913263 (ISBN13: 9780062913265)
Edition Language
English
Buy it here:

Help local independent bookstore

Synopsis:

An astonishing debut novel that explores the lingering effects of a brutal crime on the women of one small Texas oil town in the 1970s.

Mercy is hard in a place like this . . .
It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field—an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the reader’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.

 

Review:

I am a Book of the Month subscriber, and when Valentine came in the mail, I honestly didn’t remember why I found this book appealing. I have started to shy away from books were the main premise revolves around violence toward women, especially underage women. I’m not some sort of crusader about this because art is bigger than my opinions, but I also have been trying to pick novels that have a different plot than the use and abuse of women. (Having said that, my last review was Carrie, which is pretty much a classic under-aged girl getting abused story. ) I look at the trend of novels that are about kidnapped, murdered, and raped women, and I think we could use a little more variety, or maybe I could use a little more variety, but it also seems like I am not out of the rut yet.  Either way, I don’t fault anyone else loving stories like these, and I obviously have not stopped reading these types of plots, but it is definitely something that I am aware of an am trying to weed out just a little bit. 

So I picked this novel and in the first pages, I didn’t know if I was going to finish the story of Gloria (Glory) Ramirez, age 14, getting raped and almost beaten to death in the middle of the Texas oil fields. I kept moving forward in the novel because the writing was so stunning. I was reminded of Cormac McCarthy’s westerns, books that the settings and landscapes are so bleak, sun bleached, and dry that you want to read them with a glass of water. I noticed while reading through the entirety of Valentine that I was thirsty and hot most of the time, like the heat was seeping through the sentences and into me. I read this over three days in several different settings, but in every one, I needed to have a glass of water next to me.

After the opening scene, where Gloria escapes her attacker, the novel turns a little, changes focus, leads us to a street in town where the women day drink and are in everyone’s business and the kids get into mischief. When the narrative and life changes to other things, particularly the aftermath of this singular event and how it has a ripple effect on the community, added to the fact that it is set in the ’70s, when racism and sexism is still a serious and losing battle, the novel really comes to life. For as great as the settings are in the beginning, the character development after makes Wetmore’s novel one of those books that I will recommend to everyone (with a disclaimer about the violence). I loved all of the characters. Every single one is well constructed and pulls on my empathy. From Mary Rose to Corrine, all of the characters are well rounded, believable, and have the emotions that makes the reader get lost in the story. This is one of those books that I will remember because I loved all of the characters. 

I know that it is not fair to compare one author to another. Everyone is unique and doing their own great visions of things but I couldn’t help but think about one of my favorite all time books while reading this. I think the tone of Valentine, as well as the structure, reminded me of Little Children by Tom Perrotta, a novel I have loved and reread several times in my life. Valentine could be another book like this, one that I remember and reference when reading other novels. Even though it started with a premise I did not care for, it builds up such a fantastic world that I must recommend it to everyone I can. It is a thing of beauty, mystery, and profound sorrow.

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Review: Carrie by Stephen King

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Paperback, 290 pages
Published August 30th 2011 by Anchor Books (first published April 5th 1974)
Original Title
Carrie
ISBN
0307743667 (ISBN13: 9780307743664)
Edition Language
English

Synopsis:

A modern classic, Carrie introduced a distinctive new voice in American fiction — Stephen King. The story of misunderstood high school girl Carrie White, her extraordinary telekinetic powers, and her violent rampage of revenge, remains one of the most barrier-breaking and shocking novels of all time.

Make a date with terror and live the nightmare that is…Carrie

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Review:

In my infinite wisdom of biting off tasks that I probably will never accomplish, I have decided to start reading through all of Stephen King’s books, in order of publication. The start of this is Carrie, a novel of his I had never read, but I’ve watched, and loved, the DePalma film several times. So even though this film is relatively faithful to the book, I was still surprised by how different it is. We all know the story of Stephen King getting frustrated with rejection and throwing this manuscript in the trash, only to have his wife pull it out and continue to submit it, the rest being horror history. This was published in 1974, so we are predating the boom of great horror. Texas Chainsaw Massacre does not appear until later that year. Halloween is not for another four years. Horror movies do exist but they are more like The Other and The Night Stalker, and even though The Exorcist is published in 1971, it in not until it is made into a movie in 1973 that it turns the genre on its head.I have no evidence that the success of the film adaptation of The Exorcist is linked to another novel with about a teenage girl with powers (one demonic, one telekinetic) with a huge religious undertones, but it is hard not to think they might have crossed in publishing decision making path. Carrie White is much different than Regan MacNeil, and even though we have empathy for both teenage girls, Carrie White seems to be one of those girls that you just want to rescue from the plot. There is no safe space for her. She is mercilessly teased and bullied at school, and home is a mother who is brutally religious and abusive. Carrie has no one in this novel to turn to, so this makes the reader feel as if he would be her friend, would be the person who would hold her hand, support her, and get her through this. The only person in the novel who even tries this is Rita Dejardans, the gym teacher, and even her ability to reach her is limited. The only person that Carrie has to turn to is her audience, and we can do nothing but watch and wish things were different.

That is what makes Carrie so effective. The way that the reader feels like her only ally, who sees the entire, horrible picture unfold, and even though we wish we can warn her, we cannot do anything. Instead we feel sadness, rage, and pain right along with Carrie White. We are emotionally involved, and when the Prom Night events unfold, we are still right there, behind Carrie, watching her do what needs to be done. 

For the strength of the plot and characters, some of the writing is just not good. There are a few paragraphs that are head scratchers, not understanding what King was trying to say, and it’s just best to keep moving. There is a moment where King describes Carrie’s face covered in blood as an equivalent to blackface in the Song of the South Disney movie, neither of which (the description nor the film) has aged well at all. And there are some points where the quick flipping between the current action and the future reports of the things that happened (The White Commission, memoirs from survivors, and texts on telekinetic forces) that feel unneeded. Even with all of these minor problems, the book is still Carrie and the character of Carrie White is the novel character with whom I have created the most emotional attachment. I will love her forever.

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Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

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Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: February 18th 2020 by Berkley
ISBN
0440000173 (ISBN13: 9780440000174)
Edition Language
English
Buy it here:

 

Synopsis:

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden

Review:

Something about a roadside motel is attractive to me. Maybe it is because of my family vacations growing up, where my father used to try to find the cheapest deal, and this meant we traveled more during off seasons, stopped at places that were locally owned, and some of them were, quite honestly, a little ratty. I remember a few where even when I was a teenager, I thought, “This place is a dump.” Maybe it is because when I got out of high school, got my first job, and had my first real sexual relationship, I rented rooms in these types of motels. There were three in the area, none of them no longer in existence. The Kokomotel was a place where you could buy drugs, specifically crack and meth. The Flamingo Motel was a place mostly occupied weekly by immigrants because it was equal distance from a ketchup making factory and a potato chip factory. And the Red Carpet Motel (which did not have red carpet) was the place where people went to kill themselves. I frequented all three of them at various times because it was cheap, there were no parents in the way, and I was all about having a good time. Or maybe my attraction is because of Psycho, a story that I have loved for years and years. I know there are reasons why people are attracted to certain things, types of place and types of stories, but a motel is one of those settings where I instantly am hooked into the story.

 

“The Sun Down Motel” is no different. The novel is laid out in parallel stories from 1982 and 2017, both set in the same location, and many of the characters being the same. Because many of the characters are ghosts haunting the motel. A ghost story set in a run down motel is really hitting all of the buttons for me, and through most of this novel, I am in love with the story, the atmosphere, and the characters. It reads really fast, and I was moving through this novel quickly. What kind of grinds the story down some is the parallel storytelling, the events of 1982 happening at the same time as the characters in 2017 are learning about these events so it is almost as if the story is being told twice, throughout the entire book. By the end, this structure is tiring, but also by that time, the mysteries are being solved. I expected this novel to be a ghost story, but I did not expect it to turn so much into a mystery. This is fine, but some of the plot turns (not going into any spoilers but mostly in the 2017 timeline) just become too much. There could have been a heartbreaking book here that instead turned into more of a Hollywood ending. The concept throughout this novel, with all of the characters, is that the motel is a hub for people trying to escape. Even the title, the Sun Down Motel, is just one letter away from the Run Down Motel, which describes the motel’s general state, but also the state of the characters. Every single person who is part of the motel has a history, and that history is something they are running from. Whether it causes them to meet up with someone to cheat or sneak away from their family to binge drink, there is not a single character that spends any time at the Sun Down Motel, that is not running from some sort of sadness. This causes the motel to trap this sadness, trap these feelings, and this is the energy that runs all of the paranormal activity. I like this idea, and I think Simone St. James does a great job most of the way through.

 

I will recommend this to everyone. It is a great novel, and I love the motel. I can wish for most ghosts. I can wish for different endings. But the truth is that it is also great the way it is. 

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Review: Reproduction by Ian Williams

 

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Paperback, 464 pages
Expected publication: May 5th 2020 by Europa Editions
ISBN
1609455754 (ISBN13: 9781609455750)
Edition Language
English
Literary Awards
Scotiabank Giller Prize (2019)
Preorder it here:

Synopsis:

A hilarious, surprising and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams’ own, Reproduction bangs lives together in a polyglot suburb of Toronto.

Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia’s mother dies and Edgar’s “Mutter” does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter’s caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don’t quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short.

Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids–the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army’s fascination with his absent father–and his absent father’s money–begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar’s unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family.

Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn’t a matter of blood.

 

Review:

Ian Williams is an award winning poet, so it is no shock that his first novel, Reproduction, is ambitious, experimental, but still at it’s core a huge family saga and a love story. I loved most of it, and I was totally sucked in and engaged in the story and the structure until the very last part, part four where it just does not click like the first eighty percent of the novel. The novel does revolve around reproduction, and the structure is great and reflects this. This is explained in an interview with the author the January 2019 edition of “Quill and Quire.” Read the whole interview here.

 

How did you conceive of the book’s structure?

I wanted to write a book that would reproduce itself, so it’s in four parts and each part approaches reproduction differently. In part one it’s biological. It’s in 23 paired chapters so it’s chromosomal. Part two has four characters, so we go from those two characters to four characters and 16 chapters. And part three [grows] exponentially, from 16 to 256 small sections.

At the end of part three the book gets cancer and you see those tumours growing in the superscript and the subscript [rendered by the text flowing intermittently above, below, and along the sentence lines]. That is the final form of reproduction beyond human control. It’s complex but it should read like a good love story. That’s the only thing I want to read and write, or care about in people’s lives. One of the first questions I ask [socially] is “How did you meet so-and-so?”

 

I deeply loved most of this novel. The first three sections, really hit, and I spent hours at a time reading. The fourth part just seems to run out of momentum. There is so much dynamic between all of the characters, between Felicia and Edgar, between Felicia and Oliver, between Oliver and Army, between Oliver and his ex, between Army and Heather, all of the characters have tension between them, and it feels real. This is not always executed very well, but in this case the tension is almost palpable. This is such a testament to the strength of the writing. Williams does not spare the time it takes to really develop all of the main characters, and he really does a great job with the structure and the experimentation. It does not feel as gimmicky as some books that try to do the same thing. Maybe because the story feels so genuine and the characters as strong and developed, it seems like the structure feels genuine too. 

 

I do love this novel, and now that I am thinking about the last section being that way because the cells are filled with cancer, I do not dislike it as much as I did while reading it. I will be looking forward to anything else that Williams writes and will likely reread this novel at some point. 

4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill

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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by William Morrow
Original Title
Full Throttle
ISBN
0062200674 (ISBN13: 9780062200679)
Edition Language
English
Buy Now Here:

Synopsis:

In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including “In The Tall Grass,” one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.

A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in “Faun.” A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in “Late Returns.” In “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality . . . and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths. And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in “Throttle,” co-written with Stephen King.

Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears, and demonstrates this exceptional talent at his very best.

Review:

At one point in my life, while I was reading Joe Hill’s first book, Heart Shaped Box, I considered the idea of getting Joe Hill inspired tattooed, making my leg into a collage of all of his works. This idea fell to the wayside at some point, and for some reason I stopped reading so much Joe Hill, even though I kept buying all of his books. I got through Horns and just stopped. So when the opportunity to read Full Throttle came up, I was interested and then I put it off. I don’t know why I procrastinate, and sometimes I get punished for it. This is one of those times. Full Throttle deserved my attention as soon as I was given an ARC of the novel through NetGalley, but for some reason, i did what I have been doing to all of Joe Hill’s work, put it off for as long as possible. For lack of better words, this makes me stupid.

Joe Hill is incredible, and this collection is really him not only flexing his writing muscles but also showing his creativity. His writing flows through all thirteen of these stories, sometimes wearing the influence of his heroes on his sleeve. Once I thought I was going to read the best story in the collection, the next story is even better. Usually with a collection like this there are stories that are hits and misses. Quite honestly there is only one story I didn’t really care for, one story that I would not shove under a friends nose and say, “Read this!” The collection deserves me to go through each story individually, something I normally do not do. 

“Throttle” A story co-written with his father, Stephen King, whom I’ve heard is a pretty decent writer in his own right, Hill admits that it is a close reflection of a story by Richard Matheson, and honestly remember the story I said I didn’t care for? This is the one. I didn’t like it very much at all, and if I were to read this collection again, I would skip this story all together.

“Dark Carousel” A story of some teenagers drinking on the boardwalk of a seaside town, they ride a carousel called the Wild Wheel, which is filled with creepy animals. I was kind of cruising along reading this, and halfway through is when the story really started to sink it’s teeth into me. It made me think about the carousel in Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and I loved the creepy vibe and ending.

“Wolverton Station” A story about riding the train across England, stopping in Wolverhampton (home of the EPL team Wolverhampton Wolves), and everyone getting onto the train being wolves dressed in clothes. Hill says he wrote the first draft of this story in five days, and it makes me wonder how fast and powerful creative juices can be.

“By The Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” This is the point where I became fully committed to this collection, like I was going to read the whole thing quicker than I expected. Based on Bradbury’s story “The Foghorn” (which I’ve never read), this is about a dead lake monster washed up on shore. This has been made into an episode of the new Creepshow series on Shudder, and I now need to search it out. I loved the premise and the execution.

“Faun” People who pay to hunt exotic animals are people who leave sour thoughts in my brain, so I did not really like the characters in this story, but as the story unfolded, I became more and more involved in the plot. This one is pretty good as a stand alone story, but kind of gets overshadowed by some of the just awe-inspiring stories around it. 

“Late Return” This story is one of my favorites, about a guy who drives a Bookmobile around town. He has dead people show up to return books and get recommendations for books that will give them some last joy. I love this one.

“All I Care About is You” Set in steampunk/Metropolis type society, a bratty teenager is having a birthday and decides to ditch her friends at the last minute and spend an hour with an automaton/android who will be her friend. I really like this story as well, even though it is such a departure from the stories before this one.

“The Thumbprint” Mel was a prison guard/interrogator at Abu Ghraib, but now she is home and trying to adjust to life with images of torture and death in her head. She starts getting cards with thumbprints on them, and she feels like she is being stalked. This is very dark, very disturbing, and there is a great deal of sadness in the PTSD and just paranoia that is involved in these characters’ lives. It is heartbreaking.

“The Devil on the Staircase” This story is written in a way that is meant to look like a staircase, and as a stand alone piece it is kind of more style over content. However after the heaviness of “Thumbprint” I needed this story to help pull me back out the darkness.   

“Twittering From the Circus of the Dead.” This was a kindle single I bought a long time ago, and so this is the only story I have read previously. A family is traveling across the country and stops at a circus. Things go sideways from there. Written as tweets by the bratty teenage girl, this another like “The Devil on the Staircase” where style beats substance.

“Mums” This is one of the more realistic stories in the collection. A separatist keeps his family in a compound, stockpiles guns, and waits for the government to attack. His son Jack is seeing visions, just like his mom did before his dad let his mom die. The dread in this story is real, I know people like this, so the climax and the ending gave me the anxiety it was hoping to convey.

“In the Tall Grass” Before this collection even came out, it was announced that this was going to be a Netflix movie. I watched the movie, and I fell asleep halfway through. The story seems to be more compact and make more sense. I do want to watch the movie again however, just to see how much they changed. I know they changed a few things. 

“You Are Released” This is honestly the most frightening of all of the stories to me. A nuclear way breaks out while a commercial airline is flying across America. The passengers do not know what is happening. The pilots do not know what is happening. All they know is they cannot land and when they do land, everything will be drastically different. I loved all of the different perspectives going through this story, and it is really an incredible piece of writing. The scariest story of them all.

Full Throttle is a very strong story collection, and even though they have made “In the Tall Grass” and “By The Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” into a film and tv episode, respectively, I would be completely excited about the news of every single one of these stories being adapted. Overall this is an amazing collection, and even though there are some dips and I didn’t like everything equality, I would recommend this to everyone. 

I received this as an ARC through NetGally in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Published April 17th 2012 by Algonquin Books (first published October 30th 2003)
Buy it here:

Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.

Review:
2003 was a year overpowered by huge book releases, particularly the fifth Harry Potter book and The DaVinci Code. In the midst of all of this, Purple Hibiscus is released, flies pretty much under the radar, but becomes the start of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s important and spellbinding career. Her subsequent books have made her influential and well-regarded, but this debut should not be overlooked when discussing her canon. Sure Half of the Yellow Sun and Americanah are more recognized (the latter being developed for an HBO series releasing later this year), but her debut is still important, still relevant, still an amazing work that should be read.

The novel centers around 15 year old Kambili and her trying to navigate the world that is rapidly changing. Besides the Nigerian government being in turmoil, her brother is at odds with her father and her father causes tension in the entire house. Her life and the lives around her continue to fall apart as the story moves on, and there are times when Kambili is trying to understand a world that is almost too grown up for her to understand. There are many times when she is part of conversations that she does not exactly comprehend, and the solutions that she comes up with are not as simple as she thinks. Many of those characters that influence her life on a daily basis are not good for her, but she is not old enough to leave them behind. The biggest villain in all of this is her father.

Eugene Achike is one of the scariest villains I have ever read. He owns factories, runs a political newspaper, is a devout Catholic, gives freely to charity, orphanages, and the church, and he is also the catalyst to the violence, rage, and abuse in the house. There is not a single scene where I cannot feel the fear, the fear that one of his children will say something or do something that he does not agree with, and the wait from the public space to the private home is excruciating. I can feel the tension when Kambili or her brother Jaja offends him in one way or another, to the point where I am as afraid of his wrath as his children and his wife. The juxtapose of his public image versus his private actions is incredible, and he is a character that most likely could not be written by most writers. If someone is to ask me what makes Ms. Adichie such a talented author or even how to write a great villain, I would use Papa as my first example.
There are so many early works by so many different authors I need to read, and I have had Purple Hibiscus for a long time. Even though I finished this novel close to 17 years after it’s first release, this is a story that is timeless, that it has aged gracefully. It is an important piece of literature that will always be worth the time.

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