A powerful, emotional debut novel told in the unforgettable voice of a young Nigerian woman who is trapped in a life of servitude but determined to get an education so that she can escape and choose her own future.
Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. This, her mother has told her, is the only way to get a “louding voice”–the ability to speak for herself and decide her own future. But instead, Adunni’s father sells her to be the third wife of a local man who is eager for her to bear him a son and heir.
When Adunni runs away to the city, hoping to make a better life, she finds that the only other option before her is servitude to a wealthy family. As a yielding daughter, a subservient wife, and a powerless slave, Adunni is told, by words and deeds, that she is nothing.
But while misfortunes might muffle her voice for a time, they cannot mute it. And when she realizes that she must stand up not only for herself, but for other girls, for the ones who came before her and were lost, and for the next girls, who will inevitably follow; she finds the resolve to speak, however she can–in a whisper, in song, in broken English–until she is heard.
Adunni has a great voice — she wants to get educated, become a teacher, and help others. She knows she has value and has an interesting, curious attitude toward life, believing that tomorrow will be a better day, despite what has happened today.
And horrible things do happen to Adunni. It is so difficult to read a book with so much abuse and mistreatment of others, especially when it is juxtaposed against affluence and prosperity. The author does an interesting job of explaining what it is like in Nigeria — the poverty, wealth, abuse, rich culture, the politics…
I liked Adunni, but, despite her louding voice, I found she was often pushed into standing up for herself and moving forward. It is a strange combination of ambition and circumstance. Other people really have to make her see opportunities, but perhaps that’s realistic.
Then there was the language in the book. Adunni is uneducated and the book is narrated in her broken English to highlight this fact. It was challenging to read because of this. I appreciate the author trying to show us something about Adunni but felt that because her thoughts wouldn’t have been in English but her native language in the first place, that this was strange. Just my opinion. Maybe we needed the language as a symbolic barrier?
Overall, though, this is a good book, full of inspiration and hope despite the often terrible events and subject matter.
Thank you to Netgalley and Dutton Books for the review copy.