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While browsing through titles at my local bookstore, I recently stumbled upon a book display of newer noteworthy reads.

Featured in this display was a book titled “The Girl with the Louding Voice,” by Abi Daré.

Recognizing a potential tearjerker, I was reluctant to purchase a copy. Was I prepared to dive into a book about an unwilling teenage bride who repeatedly faces unimaginable hardships? I wasn’t sure.

Nevertheless, I am grateful I purchased a copy, as Daré’s debut novel turned out to be an incredibly moving story of resilience and endless courage.

This story takes place in Ikati, Nigeria, a rural village where poverty is rampant. This is where we first meet Adunni, a teenage girl with a plethora of responsibilities.

Since her mother’s recent passing, Adunni no longer has the time or resources to attend school. Adunni works hard every day: cooking, cleaning and caring for her father and two brothers.

Adunni’s mother, Idowu, sold puff-puffs at the Ikati market for income. Without Idowu, her father doesn’t have the money to pay for her schooling and is struggling to come up with funds for their rent.

One day, he calls Adunni into their parlor with grave news; he has sold Adunni to Morufu, a wealthy older man with two wives, four children, is close in age to Adunni’s father, and, by Adunni’s description, has “the face of a goat.”

Adunni begs her father to let her return to school. Also, who will care for him and her brothers if she is sent away?

Sadly, her father disregards her concerns, and the wedding takes place despite Adunni’s trepidations.

Post-wedding, Adunni attempts to adjust to her new life with her new family but immediately encounters an adversary determined to make life difficult for her.

Furthermore, when tragedy strikes, Adunni must make a decision that will alter the course of her life and the lives of those around her forever.

Time and time again, Adunni is tested and must endure the harsh lessons that life keeps hurling her way.

In the midst of her suffering, Adunni meets an unlikely ally who offers to help Adunni open doors to new opportunities. Dreams that previously seemed impossible now seem attainable if Adunni can conquer her fears and find her voice.

This book will invoke every emotion inside of you. It is tragic yet triumphant. Even more heartbreaking is the knowledge that while Adunni’s story is fictional, the adversities and injustices she faces are a reality for many young girls around the world. Girls who are subjected to violence, denied education and forced to become wives and mothers too soon. May they also find their louding voice.

I heartily recommend checking out a copy from your local library or discussing this book at your next book club meeting. It even includes a Reading Group Guide with thought-provoking questions to help facilitate discussion. Just remember to bring Kleenex!

Salem Gebil works in the Adult Services Department at the Champaign Public Library.

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