In Nigeria, polygamy is openly practiced. For Bolanle, entering into a polygamous marriage seems like the only chance to become a wife. To her, it is provides an opportunity to have children.
What seems like a happy polygamous household, however, is anything but that. Inside the home that Baba Segi has filled with four wives, secrecy and treachery about. The other wives view Bolanle as a threat and will stop at nothing to oust her from the family and protect their terrible secret from being revealed. Their ignorance, though, causes their downfall.
The Secret Lives of the Four Wives, the first novel by poet Shoneyin, provides a riveting description of the lives of polygamous wives, including what makes them join such a household and their bonds to each other as well as their mutual husband. The book, however, also provides a dramatic and lively description of Nigerian life. Through the eyes of each of the main characters, the reader acquires a small morsel of the country and culture's values, beliefs and morals. Shoneyin shines in her book. It is truly a unique gem that should not be missed.
"I didn't just happen upon this room; I dreamed of the pale green walls before I arrived."
Attempting to rise above the secrets of her past, Bolanle, a university graduate, marries Baba Segi, who promises her everything in exchange for agreeing to become his fourth wife. Thus she enters into a polygamous world filled with expensive clothes, a generous monthly allowance . . . and three Segi wives who disapprove of the newest, youngest, most educated addition to the family. There's Iya Femi, a fiery vixen with a taste for money; Iya Tope, a shy woman whose kindness is eclipsed by terror; and Iya Segi, the first, most lethal, and merciless of them all.
Bolanle quickly becomes Baba Segi's prized possession . . . until her very presence unlocks a secret that the other wives have long since guarded, and unleashing it could change life as they know it.