One day Father Amadi visits with a list of English names for Amaka to choose from for confirmation. He assures her that she will never have to use the name again after the bishops says it. Amaka still refuses to take an English name. She says that they should be moving forward and asserting that Igbo names are just as valuable and godly as English names. Aunty Ifeoma gets irritated and snaps at her, and Amaka goes into her room to listen to music. The next day Amaka does not join the other young people being confirmed, with English names pinned to their white clothes.
Amaka makes a good argument, and sticks by her point by refusing to be confirmed. Aunty Ifeoma seems irritated by the complication, but she doesn’t stop Amaka from her decision. The colonialist mindset is slowly being changed through aware young people like Amaka, even in something as traditionally Western as the Catholic church.
Aunty Ifeoma decides that they should finally make the pilgrimage to Aokpe. Jaja says he does not want to go, and Obiora agrees to stay with him and Chima. Amaka is sure that Father Amadi won’t want to join, but he does. She says that it must be because of Kambili. Ifeoma drives the two hours to the village, and Father Amadi and Amaka sing in the car. Sometimes Kambili joins them.
Along with rebelling against Papa, Jaja also starts rejecting Christianity in general. As Papa loses his tyrannical control over his children, they then have more freedom to choose whether to remain Catholic or not, without always being forced into it.
They reach Aokpe, and it is crowded with cars and Catholic pilgrims. Everyone is packed together, praying and shouting and seeing visions of the Virgin Mary everywhere. The family stands under a huge tree with orange flowers. The young girl who first saw the visions emerges from the crowd, and as she walks past the tree seems to shake. Suddenly Kambili sees the Virgin everywhere: in the sun, on her hand, in a stranger’s smile.
Unlike Jaja, Kambili finds her faith reaffirmed. She does not reject Catholicism, but does now feel more drawn to the joyful, openminded religion of Aunty Ifeoma and Father Amadi instead of the strict and judgmental dogma of Papa and Father Benedict.
Kambili wants to linger, but Aunty Ifeoma says they should leave before the crowd. Amaka and Father Amadi tease each other, but neither will admit whether they thought the apparition was real or not. Kambili suddenly says that she felt the Blessed Virgin there. She wonders how no one else felt what she did. Father Amadi looks at her, and then says that he agrees; “something from God was happening there.”
Even Father Amadi, the priest, did not see the Virgin like Kambili did, although he too recognized God’s presence in Aokpe. On this brief trip Kambili finds a renewed strength in her religious faith, which can now be a separate part of her life, distinct from Papa’s rules.
Later Kambili goes with Father Amadi as he says his goodbyes to some families. After one visit, as they are getting into the car, Kambili suddenly says “I love you.” Father Amadi presses his face against hers but doesn’t kiss her. He tells her that she is beautiful, and that she will find all the love she needs. Kambili thinks that he is wrong. As they drive home Kambili looks out the window and cries.
Kambili has truly found her voice now that she is able to say this most difficult thing. Her love for Father Amadi seemed doomed from the start, and now she experiences her first romantic heartbreak. Father Amadi still seems to share her feelings, though he is unwilling to act on them. He too chooses religion over love, but his choice is made with kindness.
When Kambili gets home, Aunty Ifeoma asks her what is wrong, but Kambili won’t say. Aunty Ifeoma asks Kambili to pray that she gets her visa, as her interview is tomorrow. Kambili agrees, though she knows that she won’t actually pray, as she cannot pray for what she does not want. In the bedroom Amaka is listening to one of her favorite musicians, Fela, and she is surprised when Kambili starts singing along. Amaka complains that she won’t be able to find Fela tapes in America.
Just after finding a new life of freedom, love, and a happy family, Kambili feels like she is about to lose all of it at once. Kambili is now learning to become “culturally conscious” just like Amaka. She has overcome her silence so well that she can now start singing without even realizing it. Fela Kuti was a real Nigerian musician and political activist.
The next day they are all nervous about Aunty Ifeoma’s interview. She drives up and says that she got the visa. Obiora and Chima are ecstatic. Ifeoma explains how arbitrary the whole process was, and how lucky she was to get the visa. Amaka sadly asks when they must leave, and Ifeoma says in two weeks. She will have to ask Papa to help buy the plane tickets, so they will go to Enugu with Jaja and Kambili soon and stay there until they leave. Ifeoma tells Jaja and Kambili that she will convince Papa to send them to boarding school no matter what.
Nigeria’s government is clearly corrupt and ineffective, but in going to America Aunty Ifeoma and her family will face new struggles against racism and prejudice, and just the general struggle involved in starting over. Ifeoma too is concerned with Kambili and Jaja’s future after she leaves. She doesn’t want to leave them alone under Papa’s constant control anymore.
Father Amadi visits on his last day in Nigeria. Obiora comments about the missionaries now coming from “darkest Africa” to reconvert Europe. Father Amadi asks Kambili to spend a last hour with him, but she refuses, suddenly angry that he is leaving. She asks if Aunty Ifeoma had asked him to take her to the stadium that first day. Father Amadi says she did not, and every time since then he took her because he wanted to. Kambili looks away, trying not to cry. Father Amadi says he will come back in the evening, and he drives off.
Father Amadi has been a huge force in awakening Kambili’s voice, independence, and sexuality, but he has also often “led her on,” which results in this heartbreaking farewell. Obiora again brings up how ironic Father Amadi’s missionary trip is, considering the history of racism that often accompanies colonialism and the spreading of religion.
Amaka comes out and laughs that Kambili must be having sex with Father Amadi, as he seems so “bright-eyed.” Kambili says that he will never leave the priesthood, but Amaka says it is possible. That evening Father Amadi comes back. He and Kambili promise to write each other. Kambili cries, and he wipes her tears and then holds her. Later he has dinner with the family, but Kambili doesn’t join the laughter, and instead works at “locking up” parts of herself. She sleeps fitfully that night and Amaka comforts her.
As usual, Amaka deals lightheartedly with Kambili’s melodramatic feelings. Nothing is conclusively decided as Father Amadi and Kambili part. They are clearly in love with each other, and yet unable to be together for now, and possibly ever. In her heartbreak Kambili draws back from some of the openness she expressed with Father Amadi.
Aunty Ifeoma finishes packing and they decide to go for a last ride in Nsukka. They stop the car at the foot of a hill, and Ifeoma suggests that they climb to the top. They buy some snacks to have a picnic and then start to climb. Suddenly Amaka starts running, and Jaja and Chima run after her. Kambili joins them, and she sprints past the boys, reaching the top at the same time as Amaka. Amaka says that Kambili should be a sprinter. Kambili laughs, and notices how easy it is to laugh now. As they eat, Kambili watches a car below that looks like Father Amadi’s.
This scene, just before everything falls apart again, is a kind of joyful climax for Kambili’s growth in Nsukka. She now runs ahead of everyone else, thinking of Father Amadi, and laughs as easily as her cousins. She has truly overcome her frightened silence and shy isolation.
That evening they are playing cards when the phone rings. Aunty Ifeoma answers it and screams. Kambili takes the phone, and Mama mechanically tells her that Papa was found dead at his desk at the factory. Jaja then grabs the phone, and Ifeoma leads Kambili to the bed. Kambili studies the bag of rice leaning on the wall. She had never even considered that Papa could die, as he always seemed immortal.
The freedom and joy all comes crashing down with the news of Papa’s death. Kambili had escaped Papa’s control in many ways, but she is still devoted to him, and still clings to her idea of him as a godlike figure, a presence that can never disappear. This then becomes the final step in breaking her “faith” in him—he was never immortal.