Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: The Secret Life of Baba Segi's Wives

I just finished reading The Secret Life of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin.  I found this book as I was searching my library's electronic download list and it was one of the few novels that was available.  The title intrigued me.  I've had some guilty pleasure reading a few of the Alexander McCall Smith books set in Zimbabwe and wondered if this book might be similar.  Well, no, not at all, but it was a good book that drew me into a world completely foreign to me.

The book is set in Nigeria (where the author is from).  It is a tale about a man and his four wives, their children, and secrets.  In real life, I am not a big fan of keeping secrets in families--for reasons too complicated and personal to get into here--but for this story, it works really well.  The point of view shifts with each chapter.  A few chapters are written in 3rd person, but most chapters you see from one of the characters' viewpoints.  It's a fun way to experience the story, as though if you were watching a movie of it, the camera would shift quickly between different characters' eyes.  It is a gritty journey with this family, for sure, but not gratuitously violent or sexual (but, be warned, there is definitely sex and violence).  It wraps you in with an element of mystery and you are privy to the secrets before some of the characters in the book are.  It gave me that edge-of-the-seat feeling as I read, waiting to see what would happen when the characters would find out what I already knew.

I really enjoy thinking about other cultures and social structures.  The polygamous life fascinates me, though I would never, ever, (ever, never, ever) want to be a part of a polygamous family.  I'm very curious about how people can live in such an arrangement and can even see why, from a functional perspective, it could be efficient.  I'm safe, though, because my J assures me I am all the wife he can handle. ;)

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