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That’s the question lingering in my mind long after I finished reading The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin
My interest to read the book came about after I read another book which raised the question on the role of children in marriage and the struggles families, especially women go through to have a child. While perusing related books my eyes stopped at Lola’s book mainly because of the title – The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives (Title for print edition).
I almost gave up after being told it was out of stock in my regular book stores. Fortunately for me, I have the option to purchase and read books on Kindle.
Once I started reading the book it became a page-turner – one of those reads that can get you into trouble, have vegetables cooking and burning right under your nose.
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 in my village and city. Then there is Iya Segi, in no way can you miss one like her in your village or town.
Same with the never ending physical descriptions and odd actions by Baba Segi, to the extent that I started to wonder why any of the four women agreed to marry him. Wanting to know the answer to just that one question made me open more pages, encounter more questions and find the answers spread out in each page of the book.
Lola’s choice of words in each sentence and paragraph, and their pacing, descriptions of scenes and household activities captured my attention, gave me reason to reflect to my childhood days. Then did I realize that what may have appeared as trivial daily household chores are more than that, they tell stories on family life.
The author’s use of suspense in every chapter made me want to start on the next chapter to know how it ends. The result was longer nights of reading. Each time I wanted to stop reading and sleep, Lola gave me a good reason to open another page, another chapter.
On reading the last sentence where Bolanle says, “I am back now and the world is spread before me like an egg cracked open,” I yearned for more, the reason I still have many questions racing through my mind:
· To what extent are we creations of our families and larger society? If Bolanle’s mother had not been too tough on her, putting too much emphasis on high scores in school, would she have found a younger boyfriend/husband while in university?
· Equipped with a university degree, why did Bolanle not proceed to find a job? A job would have given her an income, enabled her to move out of home and make choices on who she would marry.
· If society allows men to marry another woman if their first wife is not able to conceive children, can the same society not allow women to conceive children by another man if their husband is not capable?
· Why did Iya Segi and Baba Segi not discuss the issue of her "inability" to conceive children earlier in their marriage? Would have they found a different solution than the one she decided was the best for both?
· Is there a perfect way of life on earth?
· What is the role of society in decisions made by individuals and families?
Overall, I found the book entertaining and educative. I would encourage you to read it for similar benefits.
The Secret Lives of the Four Wives is the fourth book I have read in 2018. My plan is to read and write as many books as possible. I will endeavour to write reviews for all the books and post a blog on books by African Authors.
Which book would you recommend I read next?
Until next book, enjoy reading.
First published on February 17th, 2018
Have you ever made a hasty decision and lived to like it? I did, by purchasing and reading a book, Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo.
Reading the book has implanted a lifelong question in my mind.
Is society failing men by putting too much pressure on women? For example, by society focusing on Yejide for the couple’s childlessness, did they give her more openings to seek a remedy? On the other hand, by society not focusing on a man whenever a couple is childless, did that leave Akin with no outlet for his anger or search for a solution?
Looking to connect with local readers and writers, I joined the Text Book Center Book Club, Nairobi. Once I opened the first page of the book, there was no way I could put it down, and I have my reasons for that.
The author has used intricate ways to mould regular individuals into memorable characters, use of flashbacks, description of influential events in the bigger context of community and country, and vivid descriptions of day to day activities of ordinary people in Nigeria.
The book is a page turner. Ayobami captured my attention through her use of suspense, language use and sentence pacing. Each time I wanted to stop at the end of a page or chapter, the author gave me reason to open the next page, start the next chapter.
After reading the last page, I was more than ready to attend the book club session. Eager to hear what the other readers had to say about the many questions racing through my mind:
Why did Akin and Yejide find it so hard to discuss or even shout at one another about the issues disturbing them? How much can a human being house in their soul?
What is the role of society in decisions made by individuals or families? Is there a perfect way of life on earth?
How much choice or leeway are individuals left with once they choose to be members of a community, society?
Perfectionism: is life all about each individual trying to perfect what makes them happy, irrespective of the tears their choice will bring to another?
After how much suffering are individuals expected to resort to science or culture to solve a medical challenge?
Why can’t the medical doctors explain to Yejide and Akin on what Sickle Cell disease is, causes, and therefore the reason their children are dying? Or are the medical doctors themselves bewildered between science and culture?
Whichever lens you decide to use as you read Stay with Me, the book is a good read. Well edited and paced. The only roadblock you will need to overcome is separating flashbacks from the current story. Continue reading even after you encounter a point in the book which feels like the end, it restarts on the next page and picks up speed.
The reason I will not divulged into any details on content is because I want you to go read the book.
Have you ever read a book that got you thinking and wondering on the role of society in decisions made by individuals? Please share.
Until the next book, enjoy reading.
First published, January 17th 2018