Title: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives
Author: Lola Shoneyin
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
Paperback: 304 pages
“I didn’t just happen upon this room; I dreamed of the pale green walls before I arrived.”
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 his 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 very presence unlocks a secret that the other wives have long since guarded, and unleashing it could change life as they know it.
The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin is an intriguing story of a polygamist family in modern Nigeria and the complexities of living under such a family model. At first, I was not sure how I would like reading about a cultural practice that is so foreign to me, but Shoneyin, through her lyrical and masterfully-crafted prose, made this read not only informative, but absolutely captivating. Capturing the viewpoints of each wife, readers will come to better understand how each of the four wives came to marry Baba Segi and how his first three wives, each mothers to Baba Segi’s children, came to withhold a deep secret from his fourth wife, Bolanle, the only one of the four with an education and somewhat the envy of the other three. Shoneyin has penned a tale with a vivacious style that is smartly executed and will hold readers’ attention through to the unexpected ending. I found it intriguing to see the contrasts among the wives with Iya Segi possessing a vengeful spirit, always seeming to seek to settle a score, Iya Tope being quiet and withdrawn, Iya Femi who will stop at nothing to acquire that which she desires and finally Bolanle, who is weary of her own inability to provide Baba Segi with a child. The Secret Lives of the Four Wives definitely will keep readers thinking about how such very different women could possibly live under the circumstances of a polygamist family and this story truly captures the complications that each encounters in such a multifaceted family lifestyle. I highly recommend The Secret Lives of the Four Wives to discussion groups who will find many questions that warrant further reflection and consideration from reading about the lives of these extraordinary women and their family in Nigeria.
Lola Shoneyin lives in Abuja, Nigeria, where she teaches English and drama at an international school. She is married, with four children and three dogs.
For more reviews of the book, please follow the TLC book tour.
I received a copy of The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.