Sometimes you read a book and meet a character who is so authentic, so beloved and so unforgettable that it’s like they’re a living person. You feel as though you should be able to call them up, ask their advice, while away a Sunday arvo together. We’re thinking of the likes of Jude from A Little Life, Olive Kitteridge, Jo March! This month’s selection The Girl With the Louding Voice delivers another addition to this list.
Adunni is a 14-year-old girl living in an impoverished rural village in Nigeria. After her mother dies her father sells her as a third wife to an older man which is as dreadful as it sounds. She runs away to the city, hoping to make a better life for herself and realise her dream of an education, but misfortune follows. Sounds pretty bleak, we know, but it’s not in Adunni’s hands. Told in her charming, humorous and rhythmic voice (which reads a bit like Pidgin English but is uniquely Adunni’s) this is a story that cultivates humanity.
Author Abi Daré said she wrote the book to “explore the amount of talent and dreams and intelligence that we kill and waste when we don’t allow these girls to go to school”. She is quite intentionally shining a light on the challenges girls in Nigeria and indeed other parts of the world face: rural customs that trap them into cycles of poverty and childbearing. While at times this feels didactic it takes nothing away from the resilient, feisty and endearing character that is the beating heart of this book. Adunni becomes a symbol of all young women who are struggling to be heard and reminds us how important it is to listen to their stories.
A few links if you want to go deeper...