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Book Cover Image: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Title: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives

Author: Lola Shoneyin

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):

“Meet Baba Segi . . .

A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.

And his wives . . .

Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi’s youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband’s home.

Iya Tope—Baba Segi’s second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.

Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.

Bolanle—Babi Segi’s fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life’s misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives . . . and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all.”

Thoughts: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives is a fascinating glimpse into a different culture as well as an introduction to four very unique wives who are all trying to survive in a world where man is king. Baba Segi is consumed by the idea of having more children, while each of his wives is trying to protect her own position in the hierarchy of the household. The opposing desires and priorities lead to certain expected, and some surprising, clashes among its members. Ms. Shoneyin deftly manages the different personalities and stories, nimbly weaving them to unveil the larger picture of life in Baba Segi’s household.

While the heroine of the story is the youngest and newest wife, Bolanle, and while much of the story is focused on the other wives’ hatred and jealousy of her, the other three wives get their chance in the spotlight. This allows the reader to get a full, well-rounded picture of the attitudes and motivations driving each woman in her interactions with the others. As is true in real life, no one woman is to blame or completely innocent in the harms caused to others, whether emotional or physical. This adds an air of realism to the story, which offsets the more foreign elements.

Ms. Shoneyin expertly mixes description and narrative to build a crystal-clear picture of modern-day Nigeria and sister wives. Because each woman comes from a different walk of life, with differing experiences, educational experiences, and social statuses, the reader understands how varied and contrasting the cultural milieu truly is.

The Secret Lives of the Four Wives is intriguing because it offers a glimpse into a situation most women will never experience. Yet, as foreign as the situation is, the interactions between the women are familiar, as jealousy knows no boundaries. Ms. Shoneyin draws on this universal feeling to create a story that resonates with every reader no matter what his or her experience.

For more opinions, please check out the other stops on this book tour:

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Publishing for my review copy!

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