Discussing topical issues for women in cross-cultural and inter-continental relationships

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, by Lola Shoneyin

So at the beginning of 2016 I finished my first novel, The Road We All Took. I haven’t placed that information here yet (update: found time) as with a growing brood I have been very quiet. I am pregnant again, no. 4 child, and my impending maternity leave has me thinking perhaps my next novel could finally get underway. As a means of inspiration and to extend my vocabulary, and to find publishers who may be interested in my current book, I have downloaded a bunch of books off the iBooks Store. These books are about Africa and written by women. So my focus for 2017 is reading and reviewing these books, figuring out potential publishers and possibly finding the right the path to tell the next story that has been in my head for more than one year now.

Here is a review of the first book I have read for 2017:

Of all the books I chose I wanted to start this one first. The title more than intrigued me. If you check my posts on polygamy you will note that my father-in-law had 4 wives: Baba Segi has four wives too. I was also intrigued by the title, the gentle rhyme and rhythm of it made me want to find out what those secrets are. The book did not disappoint.

The book tells the tale of Baba Alao and his four wives, Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi and Bolanle. Baba has seven children and runs a hardware store. He is a man whose ego carries more than weight than his girth. His wives have their issues but Iya’s Segi, Tope and Femi have found their comfort zone and place within the household well enough. That is until educated Bolanle, a university graduate, comes along as wife number 4. Here is where their world threatens to fall apart. But who is the cause and how will it settle?

This is a book told from many perspectives and it worked well in helping me get to know the characters and their backgrounds. I got to know Baba Segi and his wives and I feel that, even for someone who is not knowledgeable in West African/African culture as I am, through this readers will understand each person’s perspective and decisions. My only negative is that a few times I got confused with too many sub-characters. I forgot who was Tunde, who was Segun, who they were linked to. These links are a vital part of the story and its meanderings.

With chapters spoken by each major character I was taken into traditional culture and into a world where modern-day Nigeria meets said culture. In the end is it tradition or modernity that wins out to provide a timely solution to the families woes?

What I really loved so much was the interaction between the wives and the children in the house. I recognise it and I loved how the intermingling and the complex relationships were woven and explained. At no point in the novel did I feel I could truly guess what was about to happen. Each surprise twist and turn threatened to take my breath away and I became more and more involved.

In the end I had no choice but to read it late into last night and then get up early this morning to finish reading it before breakfast, before attending to my two-year old’s needs. I haven’t read a book like that in a long time.

It was not too simple, nor too complex. Short enough to enjoy over a few days without forgetting the events in earlier chapters and without my kids feeling like they were too rejected. 🙂

I recommend this book heartily. Let me know what you think of it too.

 

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