I haven’t done much reading of novels in a long while. I know, I have complained about that a lot already. I have been working on correcting this abnormality so I got “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives” by Lola Shoneyin, published in 2010. Now this book is a bit old. After all this is 2014, but I had read so many great reviews and I felt this was a good place to start to rekindle my interest in Nigerian and African literature. And no this isn’t a review of the book, just some of my thoughts.
It is fairly short at 145 pages so it’s easy to breeze through it. A days read, unless you plan on savoring the story by taking bites out of it each day and letting the story linger. I’m afraid I don’t have that kind of patience.
I thought I saw where the story was going with all the talk about a great secret. Maybe it was all the Nigerian movies I saw in the 90s too. I think there was a movie with the same story line that had Richard Mofe Damijo in Baba Segi’s position, although in a monogamous household. The twist with Bolanle in the beginning almost threw me off but of course the main twist shouldn’t be that early in the book so my threading down the wrong path didn’t last.
The story focuses on Baba Segi, the Patriarch of the household and his four wives Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi and Bolanle. “Iya” being the Yoruba word for “Mama”. As used to be customary in some cultures in Nigeria, the women are addressed by the names of their first child. So for example Iya Segi can be translated as the mother of Segi.
The story starts with Baba Segi being troubled because his last wife Bolanle is still without a child. This is despite all the work he has put in at night since he married her two years ago. Everything that comes next flows from this situation.
I got to the end of the story and I must say I didn’t see the curveball that hit me. I expected the story to end differently. I rushed to end (in my mind thinking I knew how the story was going to end) just to enjoy the satisfaction from seeing what I wanted to happen to the characters come to fruition. I can’t say I was disappointed though. The end, in the end made the whole story worthwhile.