Book Review: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

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.

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  1. One day our car broke in Drakensberg, a South Africa mountain. We had to call a tow-car. The driver gave us a lift to Durban too. During all that time he kept defending polygamy. We had a long discussion. In the end I just concluded that men are all the same, with 1 or 3 women: in the presence of any woman they fancy, they bring the right mood into the conversation. Anyway, I appreciated the reading suggestion!

    • Love the anecdote! I think you’re right. And just to be clear, the book doesn’t really defend polygamy — in fact, many characters are quite vocal about their preference for monogamy and the disasters of the book would be impossible in a monogamous relationship.

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