The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Review

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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Age: Adult

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives takes place in modern day Nigeria and is the story of one man, his four wives and seven children. In a land where a man is determined by virility and a woman is determined by her children. Although the perspective of the story alternates between Baba Segi and his four wives each chapter, the youngest and newest Bolanle is the more frequent narrator. She is also the most educated of the entire family with a University degree. It is the inability of Bolanle to get pregnant that sparks the novel, and the trip to the doctor that soon sets off a domino effect of jealousy, betrayal, lies and ill-will in the Alao household.

Despite much of the violent subject matter, I really enjoyed this book. Lola Shoneyin did a fantastic job integrating modern elements with a very traditional African culture. Although the story takes place in Nigeria, Shoneyin makes sure the reader is still connected to all the characters. She takes the time to give each wife a back-story, which explains how each woman ended up with Baba Segi. I was curious as to how different wives in an American polygamous household would act. Bolanle’s entrance into the household stirred up a lot of tensions and caused a great deal of upheaval. The wives take their anger against Bolanle’s presence to a very graphic and malicious extent, displaying violence in their household, even involving the children in the matter. Despite it all, Bolanle’s story, her visit to the doctor to find out why after four years she has not gotten pregnant, is the catalyst for a slew of violence, betrayals and lies that finally come to light in the Alao household.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
by Lola Shoneyin
William Morrow, 2010
ISBN 9780061946370
280 pages
sent for review by publisher

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The secret lives of Baba Segi's wives

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