The Secret Lives of the Four Wives - Lola Shoneyin
Publisher: William Morrow Publishers
Release Date: 2011 (Initially published in 2010 as The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives).
My Rating: 3.5 Stars ***
Attempting to rise above the secrets of her past, Bolanle, a university graduate, marries Baba Segi, who promises her everything in exchange for agreeing to become the fourth wife. Thus she enters into a polygamous world filled with expensive clothes, a generous monthly allowance...and three Segi wives who disapprove of the newest, youngest, most educated addition to the family. There's Iya Femi, a fiery vixen with a taste for money; Iya Tope, a shy woman whose kindness is eclipsed by terror, and Iya Segi, the first, most lethal, and merciless of them all. Bolanle quickly becomes Baba Segi's prized possession....until her presence unlocks a secret that the other wives have long since guarded, and unleashing it could change life as they know it. (Source: Book Blurb)
I was super stoked to read this book. I had been pining for it for months and it had been lying on my ‘to read’ shelf for quite a while, so when I picked it up at TBC, I was psyched to dig in and find out what the secrets were all about.
Baba Segi is a moderately rich polygamous man, with a kind heart. Sometimes an obnoxious man with weird habits like having bouts of diarrhoea every time he gets uncomfortable with a situation, but overall he is a good man and treats all his 4 wives kindly and justly.
The Four Wives; Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi and Bolanle in order of seniority (side note: Iya is the Igbo equivalent of ‘Mama’ locally e.g Mama Segi etc.). The 3 older, illiterate wives have been keeping a secret that is threatened with exposure when Baba Segi picks up wife number 4, Bolanle, a University Graduate. Suffice it to say, the other wives, save for Iya Tope, take an instant loathing to Bolanle and want her out of their home. They hatch up a plan that ends up having deadly consequences on the whole family. They also refuse to share their secret with Bolanle on how wives get children in Baba Segi’s home which in the end turns out to be their own undoing.
Two years into the marriage, Bolanle is yet to conceive so Baba Segi, who already has 7 children from the 3 wives, is concerned and decides to take Bolanle to the hospital. This is the beginning of the end in Baba Segi’s home. Their secret is revealed and they all have to deal with the consequences of their actions.
The entire book moves from third person narration to first person narration where we are let in on the story through the voices of all the wives and Baba Segi. I thought this was brilliant as I always feel certain aspects of a story are always missed with third person narrations. This book lets you in on all the feels and how all the character’s minds work. For instance I initially was so annoyed with Iya Femi who is portrayed as the evil, ruthless wife, however when the book switched to first person narration with Iya femi as the narrator, I grew fond of her from her narration of her own experiences and how she ended up where she is now.
I was however underwhelmed as you could tell what the secret was from page one, there was absolutely no suspense. So I figured, well wait, probably that is not what the book is about, maybe the book will focus on the repercussions once the secret is revealed, but sadly, no repercussions either!! I found this quite frustrating.
The book is however laden with lots of humour and easy writing that makes the read enjoyable. I recommend this one!