From Publishers Weekly
Blind acceptance splinters a polygamous marriage in Shoneyin’s gripping debut set in modern-day Nigeria. Bolanle Alao, the newest and youngest of Baba Segi’s wives, threatens to upset the balance of power–she is educated and beautiful, though naïve about the relationship dynamics among the other three wives in the house. Raped at 15, Bolanle considers herself disgraced and unwanted until Baba Segi, an overweight, malodorous businessman welcomes her into his family, no questions asked, until it seems she cannot conceive. Like the other wives, she feels she has been saved by Baba Segi, who accepts all of them politely, but beyond brief mentions of his sexual encounters and visits to the toilet, Baba Segi is a peripheral character. When greedy Iya Segi and Iya Femi plot to run young, sweet Bolanle out of the family, the result is disaster. It is Bolanle’s unexpected submissiveness that leads her and her husband to uncover a secret that forces him to assert his control over the family. Shoneyin masterfully disentangles four distinct stories, only to subtly expose what is common among them.
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From the Back Cover
When Baba Segi awoke with a bellyache for the sixth day in a row, he knew it was time to do something drastic about his fourth wife’s childlessness.
Meet Baba Segi . . .
A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.
And his wives . . .
Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi’s youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband’s home.
Iya Tope—Baba Segi’s second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear.
Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost.
Bolanle—Babi Segi’s fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life’s misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives . . . and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all.
See all Editorial Reviews
African-born poet Lola Shoneyin makes her fiction debut with The Secret Lives of Babi Segi’s Wives, a perceptive, entertaining, and eye-opening novel of polygamy in modern-day Nigeria. The struggles, rivalries, intricate family politics, and the interplay of personalities and relationships within the complex private world of a polygamous union come to life in The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives—Big Love and The 19th Wife set against a contemporary African background.