The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins
When Bolanle becomes Baba Segi’s fourth wife, she has no idea what she is in for. A college graduate who finds escape from her life in this polygamous Nigerian household, Bolanle’s education and beauty inspires jealousy and hatred in Baba Segi’s other wives, particularly Iya Segi and Iya Femi. When Baba Segi decides to take Bolanle to the hospital for tests to find out why she has been unable to conceive, however, she becomes a threat not only to Iya Segi and Iya Femi’s positions in the household, but possibly even to the very basis of their life together.
“The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s is told in a very interesting manner. The book opens with a chapter in third person and has at least one more chapter structured like this, but most of the book is told in first person. The thing is, it is not always the first person of Bolanle, the protagonist. Each of the wives – and even Baba Segi – gets to narrate at least one chapter. Surprisingly, Shoneyin did quite a good job of helping the reader figure out who was narrating each chapter very quickly. Bolanle’s chapters had actual chapter titles, but the other chapters were titled with the name of the person narrating. Of course, I rarely look at chatper titles, so I didn’t realize this until well over halfway through the book, but I was still able to figure out with minimal confusion who was narrating.
Although Shoneyin definitely had the skills to make it work, I found the use of multiple first person narrators to be an odd choice, and one that distracted a bit from my enjoyment of the book. The story is very engaging, but the execution probably took me from loving this book to simply liking it.
Note: Lola Shoneyin stopped by and explained her reasons for using multiple first person narrators, so scroll down and check out her comment, her reasoning makes a lot of sense.
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