The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, by Lola Shontelyn, tells the story of a Nigerian polygamist who, through lust, brings home a fourth wife, Bolanle, setting in motion a chain of events that will completely disrupt his and his family’s life.
Ms. Shontelyn has neatly organized the book to show the perspective of each wife and Baba Segi as the story unfolds, showing first how each feels about the family situation after Bolanle has been with them two years, and then how they came to be in this polygamous marriage. Then the two crisises occurs, and each wife has a chance to show her role in each and how she feels about them. Finally, the end of the novel is told from Bolanle’s point of view, as she absorbs all that has happened recently and how it has changed her and her future.
The weaving together of these many strands is very well done, and all the loose ends tied together. We see the working, the break-down, and the building up of a complicated family. What does it mean to be a father? What does it mean to be a mother when you are not the only one in the household? What does it mean to be a dutiful child when there are other mothers in your household?
Hidden within the novel is the maturing of Bolanle. The only wife who truly had a choice about joining the household, she is there to hide from her past and her future, but she discovers that you cannot hide yourself from pain and sorrow. The only thing to do is meet it gracefully.
I highly recommend reading this novel. Five out of five stars.
- Lola Shoneyin, author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, answers Ten Terrifying Questions (booktopia.com.au)