Yay! First book review of 2015!
I enjoyed The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives a lot more than the Secret Lives of Bees, lemme tell you. (I still haven’t finished the latter. There’s something about books that everyone enjoys that I just can’t seem to get. Maybe I’ll do the unthinkable and watch the movie.)
Secret Lives is by Lola Shoneyin, who I have never read before and neither have you because this is her first novel. Or maybe you have read her collections of poetry. Either way, I found her first novel very appealing in spite of other reviews I had gotten of it from family members who will remain unnamed.
Baba Segi is rich, and fat, and has 3 wives, and wants to take on a fourth one. Unbeknownst to him, all his wives, even his fourth one, have secrets that will shatter his entire existence as he knows it. The timing towards the big reveal is excellent, and the things that the other wives do to prevent the fourth one from infringing on their territory (and their sex schedule) are both funny and sad. Shoneyin manages to tell the story of all the main characters in the book from various perspectives without it being crowded or biased. I loved this book. So relatable to anyone who is African lol. Some passages struck me in particular because they sounded so like Kenya:
Taju had only ever been late once, about a year before, when he’d arrived with his shirt slung over his left shoulder and nail marks across his forehead. Ejecting a toothpick from between his teeth and pushing it into his Afro, he claimed that he’d beaten his wife senseless for letting their only son suck on a coin. This happened about a week after a male senator slapped a female colleague. The slap had resonated through all the quiet meeting rooms of the senate buildings and into the heart of every man on the street. It seemed to awaken a loosely fettered beast. Of course, the male senator blamed the devil for his actions and the two senators were soon seen embracing on national television. The same could not be said for the man on the street. Men were slapping their womenfolk as if it had become a national sport. At every street corner, disgruntled wives swung suitcases onto their heads, hoping to be persuaded to return home. At the market place, the Igbo fabric merchants tugged women roughly by the sleeve. Peeved taxi drivers prodded the heads of mothers who bargained with them; young girls were assaulted and stripped naked in the streets. Even in the labour wards baby girls were frowned upon by their fathers. Taju too was inspired to throw his best punch.