Is it possible for women to have their own children within a marriage?

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).

  Book cover from Amazon

Book cover from Amazon

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 self 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 back 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.