Four women, one husband and a HUGE SECRET.
You never really pay attention to the things that we consider ‘talked about a lot’ until you actually have to pay attention to them. Things like climate change, immigration, the importance of mental health, female genital mutilation, such things. You pay twice as much attention to such things when you think that they are a bit obvious? That was (and still is) my general thought whilst reading this book.
The Secret Lives of the four wives of Baba Segi. How do I begin talking about such a funny and shocking story?
This book tells the story of a graduate who, out of societal pressure (*of course) decides to wed into a polygamous family. My own perceptions of an African polygamous family were enforced while reading this book: The husband who I frequently picture as an ignorant, pot-bellied, loud foul-mouthed entitled man; other wives (obviously) ‘sharing’ one man; plenty of children; abundance (and/or lack of) flow of money in the form of monthly allowances; the wife rivalry; knowing your place, depending on what number of wife you are; the lot of it.
Bolanle, a university graduate marries into the family of Baba Segi in an attempt to escape her past and societal pressure of being an unwed woman. Baba Segi already has three wives, Uneducated if I may add. There is Iya Femi, Iya Tope and Iya Segi, all of whom have sired children with Baba Segi. Bolanle’s arrival to the family doesn’t sit well with the first three wives and some of their children, naturally. Baba Segi adores his newest wife and she goes out of her way to please him. Until she cannot give him that which he considers to be the ‘mark of womanhood’, children. His ignorance is thus unleashed, that along with deep family secrets that the first three wives have long hidden amongst themselves.
Don’t worry, I’m not planning on talking about the entire book. Trust me, there is more.
I will say it again, you never really think about something until you have to think about it. That was polygamy for me. As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was watching a Nigerian movie about polygamy. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Nigerian films. Now more so that I am away from home (or outside Africa). I loved how the writer was able to infuse culture in a 21st century kind of life, in a family setting. I found myself fuming when Baba Segi would talk about his intimate life with his maestros. I cringed when he displayed his lack of ignorance at a gynecologist’s appointment with Bolanle. Don’t get me started with the female rivalry amongst the wives over the man of the house’s attention. Even from her own mother!
Chimamanda said it best;
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.
Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage.
I am expected to make life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.
We teach girls to compete with each other, not for jobs or accomplishments but for the attention of men.”
The simplicity with which this book was written is beautiful. It is a masterpiece, worthy of your time.
(Sidenote: maybe instead of calling this platform art of the month I should just consider renaming it to ‘Book of the month’?. I mean, I like, no love art. Be it in music, drawings, paintings, long strolls in a museum etc. My love affair with books is just, deeper I guess. Working on more content other than books. Stay tuned!)