Title: The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives
Author: Lola Shoneyin
Publisher: Cassava Republic
Publication Date: 2010
When one picks this book to read, there is an atmosphere of peace; a home-like feel that just settles around you. Lola Shoneyin in her debut novel, “The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives” neatly submits the familiar subject of African Polygamy. She carefully and intently explores the themes of polygamy, feud, rivalry, sexuality, and even the theme of secrecy, blending it all with beautiful doses of fiction, humor, adventure, suspense, and the accurate measure of emotions. I enjoyed the diction in particular; how Shoneyin deftly crafted a medley of English and Yorùbá with spicy African elements!
Lola Shoneyin is a prolific poet and a creative writer who writes by gathering materials from her environment and beyond. She finds use for everything she sees, making them ride palpably on the wings of humor, adventure and passion. All these, proving her to be just proficient at what she does.
The story is set in the city of Ibadan, in the home of a certain polygamous family, with the man of the house being a successful business man and a stark illiterate, stuck with archaic beliefs. Baba Segi is married to three wives- all illiterates like him– and they bore him seven children. He particularly takes pride in his sexual prowess and his collection of wives and children– males inclusive. These apparently, are his own definitions of real manhood.
The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives- The Bomb Starts Ticking
Everything is fine in the Alao household until Baba Segi gets it into his head to take a fourth wife– Bolanle. The arrival of the new wife further accentuates the true nature of everyone in the family.
Iya Segi, the first wife is greedy and possessive of everything. She silently executes her evil plans against whoever she tags a threat. Iya Tope, the second wife is the timid and easily-influenced one. The other wives usually took advantage of her amenable nature.
Iya Femi, the third wife is the most malicious and religious one. She would stop at nothing to be a step further than the others.
They all come together to plot conspiracies against Bolanle. They are particularly irked by the fact that Bolanle would even volunteer to educate them.
Bolanle is a university graduate who got married to Baba Segi against the counsel of her parents and her friends. She readily accepts the way of life in Baba Segi’s house and soon adapts to it. But her welcome expires quickly as the other wives make it clear that she wasn’t accepted.
The Bomb Is Set Off
About two years down the line, she is plagued by her inability to bear a child for Baba Segi. The other wives taunt her about this and even Baba Segi does not hesitate to show his disappointment.
Very soon, Baba Segi hauls her down to the hospital, simply to prove that she is barren. But just then, a twist occurs that poses expensive questions at the fertility that he holds so dearly.
The book concludes with the conspiracies of the other wives against Bolanle backfiring and leaving them in regret. The twist of events unveils so many secrets and lies, leaving them all to face the big truth; that they have all lost what they long tried to protect, because of the same reasons they tried.
Lola Shoneyin remarkably sustains the secrets of all the wives till the very end, not giving any hint to the reader. “The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives” is a really good read that I recommend for every lover of African fiction.
About The Reviewer
Azeez Precious Damilola, also known as A_Precious is a Singer, Writer, Theatre Artiste and a Social Entrepreneur who has developed a knack for general creativity and aesthetics. Her works border around Faith, Love, Dissidence and the Tragedies of life. Her dedication and attention to details influences her art and for this, her literary works have been featured in prominent editorials like PUNCH.
Precious is a sucker for explorations and wherever she goes, her reputation for scampering excitement precedes her. During leisure, she’d probably be found reading, interacting with friends or singing away like the deft nightingale that she is.