Christine's Reviews > The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin
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's review
Apr 26, 2011

it was amazing
Read in April, 2011

As a Western woman who believes in monogamy, I wasn’t sure this tale of Nigerian women in a polygamous marriage would have anything to say to me. Still, once I read the first paragraph, it was nearly impossible to put the tale of “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives” down. Truly, author Lola Shoneyin has not just given us a glimpse inside the family life of Baba Segi and his four wives, but also a universal tale of secrets, compromises, and human interactions.

The story centers on the dynamic of Babi Segi’s family. This patriarch supports three wives and seven children, but still he wants more. When a well-educated young woman drops by his business one day with a friend, his desire for a fourth wife is clear. But just what does Bolanle (the fourth wife) have to gain by entering this already crowded household?

The answer to that question, along with the relationships among family members are the heart and soul of this powerful work. There’s intrigue and jealousy, motherly love and wandering eyes, superstition and college smarts. In short, this novel is amazingly insightful about relationships and the choices people make with their lives.

Although the story centers on four women struggling within a single family, this could just have easily been four women working together in an office or four childhood friends who’ve grown up together. How the women interact, the decisions they make, the force of personality (or lack thereof)…these are the crux of the storyline.

The book does offer those of us in the West new insights about life in Nigeria, but that isn’t the reason to read this book necessarily. This is a story of how people treat each other and themselves, whether in a relationship, in a family dynamic, or just carving out their life path. It offers plenty of food for thought, no matter which country you live in or how you define marriage.

The characters who populate this story are women and men you know, and their feelings and decisions about life are those familiar to us all. Should we extend a helping hand or should we guard against the unknown? What happens when we experience a devastating experience, and how do we overcome it? How do our life experiences change the people we are? These topics and many more are the subject of Lola Shoneyin’s book, a book well worth reading!
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