The Secret Lives of the Four Wives, by Lola Shoneyin

Book: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives

Author: Lola Shoneyin, 2011

What is the role of children in a marriage? What are the struggles a couple, especially women go through to have a child, and, to what extent does society influence decisions made by individuals and families?

In The Secret Lives of the Four Wives, Lola uses Bolanle, a university educated woman who gets married as the fourth wife, to detail the life of this African girl. The decisions made by others on Bolanle’s life as a young girl under the control of her parents, a control later handed over to her husband and co-wives.

What issues in the book caught my attention?

The author’s choice of characters, names and befitting descriptions made each character memorable. Before I could twist my tongue to pronounce Bolanle, I had a clear mental image of the woman to the extent that I saw her at my learning institution and my town. Then there is Iya Segi, in no way can you miss one like her in your home village.

The never ending physical descriptions and odd actions by Baba Segi kept me wondering why any of the four women agreed to marry him. Wanting to know the answer to that question got me opening more pages where I encountered further questions and found the answers spread out in each subsequent page.

Lola’s choice of words, pacing, descriptions of settings and household activities captured my attention. The more the pages I opened, the more I realized that what may have appeared as trivial daily household chores are more than that, they tell detailed stories on family life.

The author’s use of suspense in every chapter gave me a reason to open the next page, next chapter until I read the last sentence of the book where Bolanle says, “I am back now and the world is spread before me like an egg cracked open.”

Questions to ponder

I liked the book, though I am now left with many questions racing through my mind:

  • To what extent are we creations of our families and of the larger society we subscribe to? would Bolanle have found a younger boyfriend/husband of her choice while in university, had her mother not been too tough on her, putting too much emphasis on high scores in school?

  • Equipped with a university degree, why did Bolanle not proceed to find a job, a source of income which would have in turn enabled her to leave home, subsequently make a choice on who to marry?

  • If society allows men to marry another woman when their first wife is not able to conceive a child, can the same society not allow women to conceive children by another man if their husband is not capable?

Overall, I found the book entertaining and educative. I would recommend it to anyone who longs to understand gender relations, and what it means to be a girl child and a woman in some homes.

Thanks for reading this book review. I endeavour to write a review on the books that capture my attention. Please recommend books for me to read next.

Eileen Omosa.Comment