A Complicated Marriage in Nigeria

As July comes to a close, I am rushing to get through my July-specific reads. I have recently joined the Great African reads group on Goodreads and this is my first of the Contemporary Literature monthly selections. There is also a project to read our way through the nations of Africa alphabetically. I’m jumping in with the July/August book there, but will read it in August. The group is at Lesotho, so I will have to circle back and get the countries I missed at the end. My trip this month was to Nigeria. It was an enjoyable and very readable novel by the daughter-in-law of Wole Soyinka. It was very much a story of individuals and family relationships rather than what many of the African novels I’ve read in the past have been: commentary on post-colonialism and its impact on the fabric of African life. It fascinates me that I just identified the author in terms of her more famous male relative, since this book is very much about the experience of women in Nigerian culture and the extent to which their destinies are tied to the men in their worlds. But is also about the reverse, the impact women’s choices have on their men’s destinies.

  • Orange July 1 2 3
  • Around the World: Africa: 1, 2 Asia 1 South America 1 2 3 4 5 6 Other countries 1 2 3 4
  • 1001 Books 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
  • Nobel: July Aug Sept
  • Pulitzer: July Aug Sept
  • Great African Reads: July Aug Sept

My review: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives: A NovelThe Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives: A Novel by Lola Shoneyin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness. He was sure the pain wasn’t caused by hunger or trapped gas; it was from the buildup of months and months of worry. 

The narration in The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives rotates among the adult family members in a polygamous Nigerian family, revealing their different responses as the book’s central dilemma plays out. Baba Segi’s fourth wife, this one educated unlike her predecessors, has not conceived after two years. As the plot unfolds, the story reveals complex family politics which intersect with traditional cultural norms and more modern opportunities. The are alliances and subterfuge to be reckoned with. We learn of the history and secrets each of the adults carry into the family, and we watch the family struggle to adapt to the crisis which is set in motion as the tale unfolds. I found this book to be a quick and pleasurable read. While it wasn’t truly remarkable, it was a solid, well-written, character-driven piece. I felt drawn into the nuances and contradictions of modern Nigerian city life. I would happily read more from Lola Shoneyin, and rate this book at 3.5.

About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
This entry was posted in Around the World 2012, Books and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Complicated Marriage in Nigeria

  1. vanbraman says:

    The Africa challenge sounds interesting. Especially if you include all the former African nations.

  2. I forgot that I was in this group; I need to get a copy of this!

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