The Secret Lives of the Four Wives
By Lola Shoneyin
(William Morrow Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780061946387, 304pp.)
Publication Date: July 2011
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"I didn't just happen upon this room; I dreamed of the pale green walls before I arrived."
Attempting to rise above the secrets of her past, Bolanle, a university graduate, marries Baba Segi, who promises her everything in exchange for agreeing to become his fourth wife. Thus she enters into a polygamous world filled with expensive clothes, a generous monthly allowance . . . and three Segi wives who disapprove of the newest, youngest, most educated addition to the family. There's Iya Femi, a fiery vixen with a taste for money; Iya Tope, a shy woman whose kindness is eclipsed by terror; and Iya Segi, the first, most lethal, and merciless of them all.
Bolanle quickly becomes Baba Segi's prized possession . . . until her very presence unlocks a secret that the other wives have long since guarded, and unleashing it could change life as they know it.
Lola Shoneyin lives in Abuja, Nigeria, where she teaches English and drama at an international school. She is married, with four children and three dogs.
- It is normal practice in Nigeria for wives to be known as 'Iya' followed by the name of their first child. 'Iya' in this context means 'mother of'. What does this say about the identity of women in a traditional Nigerian setting and how do you think this might impact on women who are unable to produce children?