Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives-Lola Shoneyin

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives-Lola Shoneyin

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 245
gender: F
nationality: Nigeria
year: 2010

"Blind acceptance splinters a polygamous marriage in Shoneyin's gripping debut set in modern-day Nigeria. Bolanle Alao, the newest and youngest of Baba Segi's wives, threatens to upset the balance of power--she is educated and beautiful, though naïve about the relationship dynamics among the other three wives in the house. Raped at 15, Bolanle considers herself disgraced and unwanted until Baba Segi, an overweight, malodorous businessman welcomes her into his family, no questions asked, until it seems she cannot conceive. Like the other wives, she feels she has been saved by Baba Segi, who accepts all of them politely, but beyond brief mentions of his sexual encounters and visits to the toilet, Baba Segi is a peripheral character. When greedy Iya Segi and Iya Femi plot to run young, sweet Bolanle out of the family, the result is disaster. It is Bolanle's unexpected submissiveness that leads her and her husband to uncover a secret that forces him to assert his control over the family. Shoneyin masterfully disentangles four distinct stories, only to subtly expose what is common among them."

 I probably wouldn't have written this up were for that I read it for the GWC challenge partially because it read like the easiest entertaining book. This is not heavy reading. It's set at a rollicking pace that carries you along with the vaguely soap opera-like plot.

But don't let that deter you because this story is awesome and handled with great affection. There're shifting viewpoints without prose changes but you're never confused as the back stories unfold in the present actions. Though their voices don't really change, their concerns and motivations so clearly delineate which character is speaking.

I ended up liking all of them much to my surprise, even Iya Femi who is the hysterical, bitter, self-centred archetype I usually despise. This is also a fairly easy way to learn a bit about Nigerian polygamist culture-an enjoyable glimpse into the difficulties of strong personalities all cohabiting.


  1. A fine review. I read this book a while ago and I loved it, finding it hilarious and very well written. I did not like the ending though; I felt it did not resolve Bolanle's plight. But then that could also be a ploy used by the author; for readers to draw their own conclusions.

    1. Of all the flaws a book can have I find a weaker ending to be the most forgivable. It's true that Shoneyin doesn't wrap it up into a nice package but the rest of the novel was fairly realistic so I didn't want or expect much of a resolution.