The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

In this Satire, Shoneyin unravels the unspeakable exploits of a seemingly happy polygamous family living in Ibadan, Nigeria. We are introduced to Baba Segi whose four wives and seven children are his very pride and joy. Each wife adds a different dynamic to the home. The first understands him, the second pacifies him, the third enlivens him while the fourth intrigues him in every way.

In the beginning we see Bolanle, an educated young lady, who by all standards is out of Baba Segi’s league, take the place of a fourth wife but her arrival does not sit well with the first three wives, especially the first (Iya Segi) and third (Iya Femi). The second (Iya Tope) feels Bolanle is harmless but is stuck at a crossroad. At one end were the women who fed and cared for her and her children while the other extreme held the new unassuming wife who knew nothing of the workings of the household.

No doubt, Bolanle’s level of education intimidates the older illiterate wives and even Baba Segi. Shoneyin highlights the sharp contrast between the educated and the illiterate with scenes of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, often leading to Bolanle’s public humiliation.

The reader should not be too quick to judge though, as an explanation for each characters behavior is chronicled in different chapters, beginning with their years of childhood up until they arrive at Baba Segi’s house. The reader sees why Iya Segi is a tough independent business woman, Iya Tope a child-like woman, Iya Femi a self-righteous hypocrite and Bolanle an intelligent yet self-condemned woman.

Throes of selfishness, malice, jealousy, and betrayal unfold in this engrossing story revealing that though all is not as it seems, everything does happen for a reason.

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