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. He was sure the pain wasn't caused by hunger or trapped gas; it was from the buildup of months and months of worry.
The narration in The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives: A Novel rotates among the adult family members in a polygamous Nigerian family, revealing their different responses as the book's central dilemma plays out. Baba Segi's fourth wife, this one educated unlike her predecessors, has not conceived after two years. As the plot unfolds, the story reveals complex family politics which intersect with traditional cultural norms and more modern opportunities. The are alliances and subterfuge to be reckoned with. We learn of the history and secrets each of the adults carry into the family, and we watch the family struggle to adapt to the crisis which is set in motion as the tale unfolds. I found this book to be a quick and pleasurable read. While it wasn't truly remarkable, it was a solid, well-written, character-driven piece. I felt drawn into the nuances and contradictions of modern Nigerian city life. I would happily read more from Lola Shoneyin, and rate this book at 3.5.