I realised that I have been reading so many books and decided this book HAD to be posted on my blog.
Title: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Author: Lola Shoneyin
Theme: the effects of polygamy on a family
My friend gave me this book as a Secret Santa present. Far from the regular makeup kit or personal care gift basket, I actually got excited as I felt like a book is worth more its weight than a bottle of MAC Studio Fix foundation. And this book is weighty. This book has opened my eye to an area of life that I know I personally will not experience. Polygamy. Although this book made me laugh (seriously, I LOL’d on the tube after reading two pages into the book!), I know the laughter only glosses over the trauma of such a situation. Although this is a novel, I am sure there are true stories of polygamy that are not this humorous.
The story is set in Ibadan, Nigeria and Baba Segi is concerned that his fourth wife is not conceiving. After getting advice he takes her to a doctor, rather than the local herbalist, to get her tested. From there, we are introduced to who the fourth wife is and in consequence the other wives. Everybody gets to tell their side of the story and a little about their history. The first wife is controlling and acts as leader over the other wives. The second wife is shy and timid. The third wife is a vivacious schemer. All three are uneducated. The fourth wife is educated – up to university level. She is the smartest one in the house. The tension is there. The other three wives try to plot to get rid of the fourth wife – as an educated woman, she does not have to marry a wealthy man. She can get a job, start her own business, leave the country – better opportunities await her than the other ladies. And yet, it is the fourth wife who, in the end, exposes all the wives.
I have never read a book with such twists and turns about one family. And because it is a polygamous family, all those people bring a different flavour to the pot. Wow. Just wow! I had to write a short synopsis because if I went any further I would be giving the story away. For me, I just that the fourth wife would get pregnant, Baba Segi would love her more than the other wives and so punish them for mistreating the fourth wife. But no, it did not go that way. From a person who comes from a culture that is used to a single-wife marriage and the knowledge of a polygamous marriage I know is between Jacob, Leah and Rachel in the Bible, this book was just shocking to me. Seriously, does this guy have sex with his wives every time?! Like….every single time? Does he not get tired? Is his middle name Duracell battery. Someone please explain to me, but when the other wives talk of their time with him it just sounds like when it is their turns he sleeps with them. Ah… I just hope that I have a misunderstanding of this!
Not only was this book enlightening towards polygamy, but also an eye-opener to Nigerian culture. I heard stories about what it is like to be in Nigeria, but this book shows you what it is. All those stories of police corruption, witch doctors, house girls, village life, the forest, etc – this book touches it. I have never watched a Nollywood film before but this felt like one. Drama at every turn. I truly enjoyed this book. I read it one day – I just could not put it down. I highly recommend getting this book. These are my two favourite jokes from the book:
Atanda: “Baba Segi, I think you should drag her to a medicine man if she doesn’t follow you. You are the husband and she is a mere wife, and the fourth one at that! If you drag her by the hair, she’ll follow you anywhere, I swear it!”
Olaopa: “Atanda! You want Baba Segi in jail? Who would dare to drag a graduate? When she opens her mouth and English begins to pour from it like heated palm oil, the corporals will be so captivated, they will throw our friend behind bars!”
Doctor: “Do you and your husband have regular coitus?”
Baba Segi: “What is the meaning of coitus? Don’t think the two of you can bamboozle me because I did not go to university!”
Doctor: “I was asking Mrs Alao how frequently you have sexual relations.”
Baba Segi: “She gets her ration on Tuesdays, and sometimes she gets an extra day. No less, no more than any of my other wives. It is her womb that is not working.”
Get this book!