Excerpt from His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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His Only Wife

by Peace Adzo Medie

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie X
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2020, 288 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2021, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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Excerpt
His Only Wife

Eli came at 1:36 p.m. I knew the exact time because I was sitting and staring at the analog clock on my phone when the doorbell rang. The sound startled me and I dropped the phone; I hadn't heard the lift stop and open on my floor. My mother rushed out of her room and mouthed "Go" while pointing to the door. I hesitated; for some silly reason I wanted to fish my phone from under the chair before I answered the door.

"Ah, open the door," she said with sound this time.

I stood up and smoothed my dress over my hips. My armpits were moist; it was a good thing that the fabric was light and patterned so that my sweat stains would not be visible. My feet felt heavy so that I needed extra effort to lift them. I imagined that I looked like a marching soldier. The frown on my mother's face told me that she was displeased. The bell rang a second time. She flashed her eyes as if they had the power to physically push me toward the door. My hand was so damp with sweat that it slipped off the round doorknob when I tried to turn it. I wiped my hands on my dress and tried again. This time I was successful.



Eli broke into a smile that reached his eyes when he saw me. He was leaning against the doorframe like someone who had been waiting for a long time to be let in.

"Please, good afternoon," I managed to say in a near whisper. Should I shake his hand, should I hug him, a kiss on the cheek? Last night I had imagined hugging him but now no greeting seemed right for this almost-stranger who was also my husband. It didn't help that he was jauntily leaning against the doorframe and openly staring at me, his smile intact.

"Afternoon, Afi," he said, his eyes never leaving my face. I lowered my eyes to look at my hands, and then my feet. Anything to avoid the intensity of his gaze.

"Please come in, Fo Eli," I heard my mother say from somewhere behind me. Only then did he look past me into the flat. I breathed a soft sigh of relief and stepped aside to let him in.


He was seated in one of the armchairs, his feet splayed, his arms resting on the armrests, and his lips slightly curved in a smile. In his hand were two large cellphones. He had a beard; I didn't remember him having a beard before. It was so neat that it looked as if it had been trimmed by someone using a measuring tool for accuracy. I assumed that the same person had trimmed his hairline. He had on a white shirt folded up to his elbows and tucked into black trousers. The brown leather belt at his waist matched his shoes.

"Let us bring you some water," my mother said. I was thankful for her words because I would have otherwise just sat and stared at him like a fool. I followed her into the kitchen as though we both needed to carry a glass of water. I decided at that moment that I hated the open floor plan of the flat because I really wanted to say something about the situation to her but Eli could see and hear me from the sitting room. So instead I took a jug of water out of the fridge and she a glass out of the cupboard, all without speaking to each other. I set the two items on a small silver tray and carefully walked back to the sitting room with my mother behind me. I placed the tray on the side table closest to Eli and poured the water into his glass. He lifted it to his lips and I went back to sit on the edge of the couch with my arms folded in my lap.

"Woezor," my mother said when Eli set the glass down.

"Yoo."

"How was the journey?" she asked him in Eʋe.

"It went well."

"Your siblings?" she continued.

"They are well."

"Woezor," my mother said.

"Yoo."

"You are the ones looking after people," she said, nodding her head.

"You as well."

"You are the ones who have worked so, so, so, hard," she said, still nodding, as though agreeing with herself.

Excerpted from His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie. Copyright © 2020 by Peace Adzo Medie. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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