by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
Abi Daré's debut novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice, captures your heart with the focus on Adunni, a young Nigerian teenager who loses her ability to go to school and becomes a child bride after her mother's untimely death. Despite her father's promise to her mother that Adunni will get to continue her education and will not become trapped in a life of hard work and misery, her father agrees to her marriage for a bride price that suits his own desires.
At fourteen, Adunni endures a horrific marriage as a third wife to Morufu, a wealthy man in the village. In addition to the struggles with her new husband, she endures repeated beatings and verbal abuse by his first wife, Labake, who cannot bear Morufu a son and who struggles with her own jealousy and her feelings of being powerless. However, the second wife, Khadija, is kind and loving toward Adunni and treats her like a younger sister. She takes care of Adunni until her own life spirals out of control, ultimately forcing Adunni into a horrific situation that requires her to be on the run.
Adunni finds herself working for Big Madam and Big Daddy in a form of modern-day slavery. Despite the endless setbacks, Adunni continues to learn as much as she can, to speak her mind, and to find a way to rise above her circumstances. She remains ever focused on the chance to get an education and to escape the life that stretches out before her.
In the midst of her struggles, Adunni finds an ally, Ms. Tia, who becomes an important part of her journey. Another member of the house staff, Kofi, also eventually warms up to and guides Adunni despite the ways that it is at times detrimental to his own security. Adunni also learns to understand more about the brokenness of Florence (Big Madam) and the way that Florence's own oppression within her marriage affects her treatment of Adunni.
Despite the way that privilege and power dominate the choices of some men in the book and negatively impact women regardless of their status and wealth, we also see examples of people (both men and women) working to bring about change in the system. Full of insight into the way that class and education shape and limit opportunities, this is a phenomenal read that, despite the hard circumstances Adunni faces, leaves the reader full of hope.
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