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The Girl with the Louding Voice


The Girl with the Louding Voice

From debut author Abi Daré comes THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE, a powerful novel told from the point of view of Adunni, a 14-year-old Nigerian girl who longs for an education so that she can have a real voice in her life. But with abusive men and corruption surrounding her at every turn, she will have to get loud in order to get what she wants.

When we meet Adunni, she is still grieving the loss of her mother, who died after contracting a terrible, bloody cough. Her mother was passionate about education and imbued Adunni with the same respect not only for intellect, but for the written word. Unfortunately for Adunni and her siblings, their mother was the glue holding the family together. Without her, their father has turned to alcohol to cope, depleting their already meager savings.

Papa tells Adunni that the family has no more money to pay their community rent, but that a kind man in town has offered to help --- in exchange for a bride. Adunni is horrified; not only did her father promise her mother never to marry her to a man in lieu of securing her education, but her husband-to-be, Morufu, already has two wives and a handful of children. What will Adunni’s life look like as the third wife to a man at least twice her age? As Adunni contemplates her future, she is even more shocked by the reactions of her peers. Rather than have sympathy for her, they are gleeful and even jealous that she has found a good, wealthy man to help care for her and her family.

"Bold, surprising and absolutely unforgettable, THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE is a tremendous debut with a voice that yells far beyond its pages for Adunni, her supporting characters, and all the girls and women who will have the honor of reading it."

When Adunni marries Morufu and meets his first and second wives, Labake and Khadija, she enters into a toxic, abusive household where she is forced to share Morufu’s bed three times a week and endure his “roughings” and clean and cook the rest of the time. All the while she must dodge the hateful attacks of Labake, who is jealous of her husband’s second and third wives. Her only solace is Khadija, who takes Adunni under her wing and acts as a sort of mother to her, even going so far as to help her find and prepare contraceptives to avoid becoming pregnant so young. Just as Adunni feels that she has found a sort of careful balance, Khadija suffers a miscarriage that will have dangerous and life-altering repercussions for Adunni. Fearing the worst of her village’s “jungle law” (which has seen many of her neighbors killed for even being suspected of a crime), Adunni flees.

Finding help through an old friend of her mother’s, Adunni travels to the prosperous and glittering town of Lagos, where she becomes a maid to a wealthy woman known as Big Madam. Though Big Madam is needlessly cruel at times, Adunni soon learns that it is her husband, Big Daddy, who she must avoid at all costs. Lecherous and manipulative, Big Daddy is known for his womanizing ways, and it comes as no surprise that he has no problem dipping his pen in the company ink, as it were. And then Adunni learns of Rebecca, Big Madam’s last housemaid who disappeared under mysterious conditions. More desperate than ever to find a way out, Adunni begins to take English lessons in secret, hoping to secure a scholarship that will help her find her “louding voice.”

THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE is an absolute triumph of a novel. With a setting as attractive as Lagos and a plotline that weaves together numerous prescient issues, this book could stand on its own as a terrific novel, but what truly sets it apart is Adunni’s unforgettable and extraordinarily moving voice. Adunni narrates her own story, and though her English is better than most in her village, she speaks in her own sort of dialect, explaining, “I will go to school. I will finish my primary and secondary and university schooling and become teacher because I don’t just want to be having any kind voice…. I want a louding voice.”

Prose like this could easily be distracting, but Daré writes with such beautiful cadence and lyricism that readers will quickly get swept up in Adunni and her story. Though her grasp of English is not perfect, she is deeply intuitive and asks pertinent, wise questions, including ones about race, motherhood and privilege --- without even realizing the depth of her queries. More than just sweeping and poignant, Adunni’s voice is magnetic. When she is speaking, detailing the joys and horrors of her life, you feel as though you are listening to a friend. Adunni is kind, smart and uniquely herself --- even when it is dangerous to be a 14-year-old daughter, wife or housemaid.

Adunni’s focus on her predecessor, Rebecca, also highlights a sense of activism and duty that makes Adunni feel very present. Though she has nothing to gain by investigating Rebecca’s disappearance, she is conscious of the fact that while she has a “louding” voice and is not afraid to use it, there are plenty of girls who have lived through situations like hers --- and worse --- who were not granted the same opportunities to develop and use their voices. Daré infuses her protagonist with such a clear and vivid sense of what is right that she becomes a hero in her own right, speaking out for all the girls who came before her and those who will come after.

Bold, surprising and absolutely unforgettable, THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE is a tremendous debut with a voice that yells far beyond its pages for Adunni, her supporting characters, and all the girls and women who will have the honor of reading it.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on February 21, 2020

The Girl with the Louding Voice
by Abi Daré

  • Publication Date: February 23, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 1524746096
  • ISBN-13: 9781524746094