Sunday, March 28, 2021

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie


My first book by Peace Adzo Medie but not the last. I bought this when it was on sale and am only just now getting around to reading it. Set in Ghana, this book is kind of a subtle take-down of patriarchal values through the medium of a domestic drama. Our heroine, Afi, is a poor girl with a widowed mother who relies on her selfish uncle for goodwill until she is married to a rich guy who doesn't even bother to show up to the wedding. As we see from the very first addictive sentence in the book, he marries her in absentia.

From there on, the story takes on a Rebecca like tone because her husband, Eli, is seeing another woman. A woman from Liberia that none of the family likes. Her husband's family hopes Afi will be enough to lure their son back to the path of filial obedience and righteousness, but this other woman's presence overshadows every aspect of the household and takes on a sort of "shadow self" presence as Afi hears about her from acquaintances, family members, and friends of her husband who have met this mysterious "Muna."

This was a really interesting portrait of African family life and values, and how a woman might realistically go about overturning societal expectations. In some ways, it reminded me of another work of feminist African literature, A GIRL IS A BODY OF WATER. Like this story, the ending was more bittersweet than fascinating, but both feature protagonists who are allowed to be flawed, complete women on their own terms, even when they are unlikable or difficult. I loved that.

I'm giving this a three because the middle section of the story was a bit of a slog. I loved the set-up and the many faux-pas Afi committed in her rags-to-riches journey (such as the uncertainty a buffet of unfamiliar foods might bring and throwing her weight around with the help to assert authority) and I thought the ending was an interesting twist and subversion of the usual OW plot, but the middle section definitely lost steam a bit along the way and I did find myself skimming a bit. It's still a really interesting story and I loved the Ghanaian setting and domestic drama elements of it.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.