Kambili, the 15-year-old protagonist, her brother Jaja, and their mother Beatrice would seem, from the outside, to have an ideal life under care of her father – the self-made businessman, newspaper proprietor and humble servant of the Catholic Church. However, within the high walls of their marble-floored compound, the trio live in fear of his repressive rules and the impossible religious zeal that he administers with violence and the fear of violence. When Kambili and Jaja meet their grandfather and later spend some time away in the home of their aunt and her children, they find that some of the fearful silences of their existence are filled with laughter, love and hope of a different way of living.
Returning home, their father’s tight regime starts to get challenged and things start to unravel, as they are also doing in their country following the military coup that forms the backdrop to the novel.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a garden of writing skills that is in full bloom. She has a deft and steady hand, knowing for the most part exactly where to prune, where to cultivate and where to take her ancestors’ themes and grow from their cuttings. Like the flower of the book’s title, she is a rare novelist.