Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives

Shoneyin's debut novel of a modern Nigerian polygamist family is refreshing. Though some may be turned off by the idea of polygamy, it is a revelation to read of the dynamics of such a relationship. Baba Segi has four wives, Iya Segi, Iya Tope, and Iya Femi, and the newest, Bolanle. Bolanle is college educated unlike the other three wives and this brings her much jealousy and animosity. All the while the first and third wives, Iya Segi and Iya Femi, respectively, are plotting Bolanle's demise, their own secrets are about to be exposed. Things start to unravel for the first three wives when after years of trying, Bolanle does not get pregnant. Bearing offspring is a great source of pride for Baba Segi and Bolanle's supposed barrenness is hurting it.

How the story unfolds is in chapters that reveal back story on each wife before and after she married Baba Segi. Each of these women were filled with various desires like learning to read and being educated, the affections of a young man, and even wealth. The wives are the important characters here and that's fine because a tale involving polygamy does bear more implications on the status of women. It's pleasing that the female characters are fully realized and even the two most vindictive are shown to have some humanity. Baba Segi was probably the type of characterization you'd expect of a wealthy polygamist-- demanding and unattractive. Shoneyin has written this novel with great honesty and realism and it was a joy to read. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is a fabulous piece of literature from a fantastic writer poised to have a brilliant career.

disclosure: I received this book from the publisher.


Amy said...

This is a book that will be going on my wish list for sure. It sounds like a great read. I love that you say the characters are all fully realized and it sounds like it doesn't fall back on stereotypes.

Tea said...

I would love to read this one. Polygamy is one or was one way of life in Africa. I don't like to pick over which parts of life to read about in Africa. I just like learning more about Africa especially in fiction.

I have a Josephine Baker Festival going on for Paris in July on my blog. Please stop by and spread the word. http://readwithtea.blogspot.com

Toni Campbell said...

I loved this book! I'm so interested in reading books about contemporary Africa and this one was a fun read!

evelyn.n.alfred said...

I saw the cover of this book and wanted to pick it up. I'm going to have check it out.

Athira said...

I'm definitely going to add this one to my TBR. I recently read another book on polygamy, and I'm pretty fascinated and disgusted by it. I wonder what makes people do it.

Lynn said...

Sounds intriguing. I'm always interested in different cultures. Looks like you are quite prolific, Titilola.

Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers