Sometimes I think we have children because we want to leave behind someone who can explain who we were to the world when we are gone.
Yejide and Akin haven’t had a child after four years of marriage. Akin’s mother convinces Akin to marry another wife and give her grandchildren which he agrees to do. The introduction of a second wife into her almost perfect marriage drives Yejide to desperately seek children from anywhere that promises her some. This is an emotional story about polygamy, tradition and love.
What would be left of love without truth stretched beyond its limits, without those better versions of ourselves that we present as the only ones that exist?
It took me such a long time to read this book after it came out because I thought it sounded like every Nollywood movie ever made in book form. I felt like it would turn out to be like “Baba Segi’s Wives” which I found entertaining but not very well written. I think a book should have a story that hooks the reader but when you are raised in Nollywood like I was, most nigerian books just become a caricature of themselves.
I finally read this at the very end of last year when I was desperately trying to complete my goodreads challenge and absolutely loved it. I did not expect it to be an emotional read! This book made my heart hurt for the characters and all the pain they were going through. It is such a treat to find a new Nigerian writer that manipulates words and sentences and makes you want to go back and read that sentence over and over again. It had so many beautiful lines that had me highlighting over and over again.
“I loved Yejide from the very first moment. No doubt about that. But there are things even love can’t do. Before I got married, I believed love could do anything. I learned soon enough that it couldn’t bear the weight of four years without children. If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.”
Something else I loved about this book was the fact that it was not written in a vacuum. We are given a time period in Nigeria and the writer paints us a picture of exactly what our setting looks like and the changes that were happening in a newly independent country. We see the changes in government, the military coups, the radio broadcasts. This book is set against a backdrop that feels alive. As Yejide and Akin go through the ups and downs and setbacks of their relationship so does the country and city that they are living in and I thought that was very well done.
Shame is such a huge part of this book, the shame of not being woman enough, the shame of not being man enough, the shame of looking your loved ones in the eye and admitting that the version of you they know is a constructed illusion. Akin thinks that all he has to do to repair his marriage is to give Yejide a child no matter what, and this drives him to so many lengths and into too many desperate actions that led to so much pain and despair.
“I was armed with millions of smiles. Apologetic smiles, pity-me smiles, I-look-unto-God smiles—name all the fake smiles needed to get through an afternoon with a group of people who claim to want the best for you while poking at your open sore with a stick—and I had them ready.”
I do not know what sex education was like in Nigeria in the 70s but it was hard to believe that Yejide was that naive about sex and all it entails. I also thought that Akin could have stepped up to the plate and saved everyone the heartache by just telling a woman he claimed to love the truth. Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would.
Rating – 4 out of 5 stars