BOOK REVIEW:THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES

 TITLE: THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES
AUTHOR: LOLA SHONEYIN
EXTENT: 201 PAGES
REVIEWER: VERAH OMWOCHA
PRICE: KSH. 1, 350
Available at:Prestige Bookstore, The Magunga Bookstore

“WHEN BABA SEGI AWOKE with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness.” So starts this text.

At wife number four and with a thriving business, Baba Segi can get away with considering himself a fairly ‘successful’ man. After his stomach is full, the next most important thing for him is children; thus the distress.

Everything is relatively peaceful at Baba Segi’s household, at least on the surface. Up until Bolanle, wife number four, happens. Her arrival greatly disturbs the stability of the kitchen cabinet. Secrets pour out, falling on the floor like sugar on a wet surface.

It is quite unsettling for the first three wives that their husband spites them by bagging himself a graduate. Predictably, they are illiterate, as is their husband.

That the new wife offers to teach them is an insult the other wives cannot pardon. They hatch a plan to drive her out. The levels of jealousy in them cannot let them put up with the smell of Bolanle’s education.

To Baba Segi, Bolanle serves to lift his importance tenfold. And with it, his societal importance. However, that Bolanle does not conceive greatly unsettles Baba Segi. He seeks the services of Teacher, his friend, in thinking of a solution. Teacher advises that they visit a doctor.

Baba Segi sets out to discover what ties the eggs in the womb of his lovely young wife. It is at the doctor’s that secrets crawl out of each wives’ closet. And at stake is Baba Segi’s manhood.

As  the author tears into the secrets and lives of the wives, you cannot help but sympathise with them, regardless of their schemes. Somehow, they all happen to be victims of a cultural suffocating box they have been put in. Baba Segi’s seeds are no good, what can they do?  Though not enough a justification, they have to prove their womanhood and complete Baba Segi’s manhood.

This story moves you through the highs and lows of life, deep into the hearts of people in a world characterized by injustice, pain and jealousy.

Lola is absolutely amazing; both in person and in her writing. I’ve not seen an author blend so well with their writing. Next time I meet her, I wouldn’t be so star struck as I was when she came to Kenya in June, 2017. (http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/weekend/1220-3974104-7pmnvpz/index.html). Oh, and the stage adaptation of this book was simply amazing!

                                                             Lola Shoneyin (Left) and Maïmouna Jallow (Right) – the performer.
You cannot fail to notice the feminist one Lola pulled on us. It so happens that the origin of Baba Segi’s wealth is his first wife!This gripping tale presents more than just regular polygamy.  It is about love, illiteracy, deception, and the place of women in the society. It presents a great hope especially through Bolanle. A victim of rape, she seeks refuge in a polygamous marriage. However, when she leaves Baba Segi’s household, she says, I didn’t feel soiled anymore.

Highly witty yet poignant, this novel dropped and lifted me. Bolanle hasn’t left my mind. I have a feeling I know her. I couldn’t get over Segi’s death.

When a book is this good, you feel like talking about it in another complete novel. But if you love drama, real life drama, hilarious drama, you’ve got to read this book.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

“Doctor, when you buy guavas in the marketplace, you cannot open every single one to check for rottenness.  And where you find rottenness, you do not always throw away the guava. You bite around the rot and hope it will quench your craving.”

“A real woman must always do the things she wants to do, and in her own time too. You must never allow yourself to be rushed into doing things you’re not ready for.”

“Only a foolish woman leans heavily on a man’s promises.”

“My daughters were born with eyes in their stomachs so they are quick to digest all that they see.”

“I saw the sadness in his eyes; it was as if it had just dawned on him that our paths had

crossed for a purpose and we were never meant to be together.”

Get a copy and enjoy!

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