Book of the Month: His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Hello folks and welcome to another juicy book of the month post. Let me start by saying I loooveeee this book. It's so rare for something to live up to its hype the way this book does. 

His Only Wife, a debut novel by Peace Adzo Medie, is about a young seamstress, Afi, in Ghana who has been convinced by  her mother to marry a man she does not know. Except it's Elikem Ganyo, a wealthy businessman whose equally wealthy mother chose Afi for him as a wife in the hopes that she distracts him from his relationship with another woman who his family claims is inappropriate. Afi's marriage takes her from her village (town?) of Ho to Accra, Ghana's capital with all the wealth and sophistication Afi never even dared dream of. On the very first page, we learn that the man Afi has married did not show up for the wedding. Bloop bloop.  

And so we journey alongside Afi and her mother as they experience this new modern life with all that come with it. We grow with Afi and evolve with her and watch her be brave, daring, inspiring assertive in all the ways neither we nor all the people around her could imagine. This book is fun, gripping, entertaining, and extremely authentic. What makes this a marvel is that you could never have guessed how it would end. 

I have said this about a lot of Books of the Month (and I always mean it!): this was not a book I wanted to put down. I did not want it to end. This is definitely a must-read in a lot of ways. Every single character in this book is strong, and well developed, and well thought out. It's why you feel them through the pages of this book. It was no surprise at all to learn that this book has been optioned as a movie. If I had to use just one word to describe this book, it would be entertaining. 

It's so good that I am going to actually purchase it even though I made a rule to stop buying books and to only borrow from the library. I do think this book is worth breaking that rule. The only other one worthy was the last book of the month.  

I wrote on Instagram that in so many ways, for us, for our daughters, this book is a reminder that we always, always deserve the best and should never settle for someone's second choice. I can't wait to see the movie. The book depicts what it means to be a woman in this world we inhabit. Although you and I may not be subject to some of the same ordeal Afi was because of our privilege as educated,  modern women in perhaps more enlightened communities; underneath all that, we really all experience very similar  BS as women in today's society. It's a beautiful sociological perspective of women, of family, of marriage, of the intersection of all that in Africa, but more importantly, how women almost always fall on the short end of that stick whether they are Muna or Afi or Evelyn. My favorite description of this phenomenon comes from TwoNightStands:

"Some women end up being the pillars of the patriarchal society that has oppressed them, some women discover that they can rise above it and define their own paths and some decide to just go with the flow and take the little wins wherever they can get them.

This book explores themes of class, gender, love, black tax (all very serious issues) in a way that is not too overpowering or obnoxious. A gem of a debut, indeed. All of this plus the author is an academic? Color me impressed!  I don't know why the publisher or Americans would describe this as the "Crazy Rich Asians" for Africa because it's not really. I think that's falling prey to the idea that everything has to be couched in a way certain audiences (cough Americans cough) understand. Africa's Beyonce; Nigeria's Hollywood yen yen yen. Sometimes, things are just that and don't have to be morphed into something else to be understood. 

I found myself learning a lot from Afi; learning to defeat fear; learning to stick to my guns when I know what's right for me; and of course confirming what I have always said, that in this life, if you are silent about your pain, if you bend your back and allow people to continue to oppress you, they will not only destroy you, they will say you enjoyed it. It reminds me of this famous quote by Zora Neale Hurston:

If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

I learned more about fear, which can be quite an interesting thing. The minute you decide to stop being so afraid of things, people, so much can open up. So so much. In some sense, this book was in fact a story of grit, hard-work, and perseverance. 

Have I mentioned the authenticity? I'm not even Ghanian but the way she describes the aunties, the uncles, family dynamics, was so real. I recognized Toga Pious, Aunty G, Aunty Sarah, Yaya. This is not knowledge you dream up or imagine, it's intrinsic. It's also knowledge you have to be willing to wield to get right; you have to not bother about neatly couching it for a particular audience to understand. 

In the manner of critiques, I don't have much. I will say I have read online about some people critiquing some of the sub plot because it led to nowhere. I think that's the beauty of storytelling and art. Everything does not have to be beautifully wrapped up in a bow. Speaking of storytelling, the art of the craft is on full display in this book.

All of this to say you must/should absolutely read this book because I know you'll love it or at the very least enjoy it.

That's it folks. See you next month.



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