I’ve been looking at this book for several months. I was intrigued when Jenna chose it for a Today bookclub pick. But I just wasn’t ready for it, yet. I’ve been reading some lighter books because I haven’t been able to concentrate on heavy issues. But that time has come and gone and I devoured THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE in two days.
We’ve all been horrified at the news clips showing an officer as he held his knee on George Floyd’s throat for almost nine minutes, killing him in front of millions of shocked viewers. We watched as other officers allowed this tragedy to happen. This has sparked interest in black authors and issues. There are a lot of great black authors. I chose to read THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE at this time for a couple of reasons. I don’t make a point of choosing books because an author is black or white, male or female, or of a specific sexual orientation. I usually choose my next read because the content is intriguing to me. Or, I am familiar with the author . I chose this book at this time because the protagonist is one of the strongest women I’ve come across in modern day. Period. And this story is begging for telling…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIQOPneQDco
Fourteen-year-old Adunni lives in a small town several hours from Lagos, Nigeria. Her mother has died and she’s left with her two brothers and her father who has not been able to get out of his own tracks since his wife passed. Adunni is to marry a wealthy man who already has two wives, however, they’ve not been able to provide him with a son. The money he offers Adunni’s father will pay all the bills and then some. So off she goes even though it is illegal for her to marry because she is under age. And she is devastated.
All Adunni has ever wished for is a proper education. She’s had some schooling and her mother made it quite clear that education is everything. Now being third wife is the only life she has. Until she runs away and is sold into domestic slavery in Lagos.
At first, I had a hard time reading what is the voice of Adunni. The story is told in first person and so we are privy to Adunni’s thoughts and fears from the beginning which gives so much power to this amazing story. I had not thought to read this book in one big gulp, but, quite simply, I devoured it.
Adunni is taken to Lagos to work as a housemaid to a woman who is richer than Midas. Big Madame is larger than life in many ways. Her figure is daunting from the moment we meet her and her chest is explained as being “wide like chalk board.” But her inherent meanness is not yet apparent. Yet, we can sense it…. Adunni has been sold into servitude to Big Madam and even though this is illegal it is rampant in Nigeria. And then we meet Big Daddy and we know what is coming.
Working from before sun- up to sometimes midnight is Adunni’s fate at Big Madam’s. Her meager wages are being paid to the “agent” who sold her to Big Madam. He promises to bring her the money in three month’s time. Really? Still, Adunni keeps her eye on the prize: education, education, education. And then, Kofi, Big Madam’s cook, shows Adunni a newspaper article offering a chance to win an actual education. And this story becomes a blaze.
When a neighbor, Ms. Tia, befriends Adunni, we begin to see a light in this tunnel. These two women need each other. I really enjoyed seeing their relationship blossom and become victorious.
There is so much “meat” packed into this amazing story. The characters are deep and strong. Adunni’s voice begins thin and then explodes into The Louding Voice it was destined to become.
Halfway through the book Daré begins the chapters with a Nigerian fact. For instance; Fact: Zamfara state in northern Nigeria was the first to make polygamy legal, in 2000. And so this explains how these men have many wives. Boom.
Abi Daré grew up in a housing estate in Lagos, Nigeria, where nearly every family had a housemaid. After she married and had daughters of her own she decided it was time to write about this by using the character of Adunni as the medium. I’m so glad she did. She now lives in U.K. I’m grateful for this story. It’s simply devastating and so very important.
THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE was published in February by Dutton which is an imprint of Penguin Random House Publishing. This is one of the most important novels I’ve read to date.