When I first laid eyes on the title of this book, there was but one question I wanted so desperately to know the answer to. Judging from the title, you already know it, ‘what exactly is the secret?’ or secrets?
Initially, you are introduced to this proud patriarch that seems to be in control of everything in his household, or at least like many men who believe they are, he too thinks of himself as in control. He marries Bolanle, his fourth wife, a young, university graduate who is a keeper of a dark secret from her past. Due to her intellect, she is instantly hated by the other wives who think she thinks of herself as superior to them.
She tries without success to gain their love and trust by initially offering to help the wives become literate and also tutor their children. However, that’s met with some backlash. Tired of trying without success, she gives up and minds her business around the house. Years pass and she’s without a child. Her husband, enticed by two of his other wives begin to torment her. So she decides to go to the hospital to find out the reason for her inability to conceive. And that’s when the secret finally blows off before our eyes. Not that we didn’t see it coming.
The story follows all four wives and how they ended up in Baba Segi’s household. It sheds light on the challenges facing polygamous marriages, specifically related to the African context. I think it was no surprise from the author to have the wives come from all walks of lives (business-minded first wife who seems to have everything in control, the gullible villager often described as mannerless and poor-looking, the ambitious/vicious third wife who will do anything to obtain status within the household, and the content educated younger wife), each with a demon hiding beneath their sheets.
I pitied Baba Segi. I pitied him regardless of his torment and arrogance toward his youngest wife. I thought the gruesome tragedy at the end of the story could have been avoided, thereby sparing everyone’s feelings, if only they had been willing to compromise. Personally, I wished the author gave a happier ending to the fourth wife. I thought it will be well deserved after all she went through. However, I understand the author’s objective in perhaps keeping the story authentic to reality.
If you’re one interested in gossips, prying into people’s lives, and interested in knowing more about life in a polygamous marriage, or just looking for a fun read, here’s your short easy to read novel for the weekend.
By Daniella D.