BookBrowse Reviews His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

His Only Wife

by Peace Adzo Medie

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie X
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2020, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Addictive melodrama reminiscent of a soap opera masks incisive commentary on finding independence, the pitfalls of polygamy and the reality of Ghanaian class divides in this hugely readable debut novel.

21-year-old Afi is a talented Ghanaian seamstress eager to study fashion design, but her life is upturned when her mother agrees to an arranged marriage with a virtual stranger, the son of a wealthy local businesswoman, on her behalf. Afi is whisked from her small town and placed in a luxury apartment in the capital of Accra. It soon becomes clear that Afi's husband Eli is already in love with someone else, a woman his family disapproves of, and that his family has set up his marriage to Afi to lure him away from her.

This "other woman" lingers on the periphery for almost the entire novel, and I thought this was a very clever narrative decision. It allows her, the rival who is never seen but whose presence is always felt, to remain as elusive to the reader as she is to Afi. It also emphasizes that the contention between her and Afi is born wholly from the influence of others, and not through any fault of their own.

There is clear critique here of the widespread practice of unofficial polygamy in Ghana. Afi and Eli's traditional wedding is recognized by their community but it is not legally binding in the same way a modern ceremony would be. Men having multiple wives in a non-legal capacity is commonplace, so Eli believes himself to be free to continue pursuing relationships elsewhere and thinks that Afi should accept this without question. Without ever adopting a judgmental tone, Medie highlights the ways in which the practice of locking women into moral contracts without proper legal protection or reciprocal opportunities upholds patriarchal structures, enforcing longstanding division between genders and classes.

Medie brings this West African nation's rich and complex culture to life on the page, showing the contrast between the traditional customs still upheld by many (particularly in more rural areas) and the increasingly cosmopolitan way of life spreading throughout the capital. This paves the way for the author to explore wealth disparity and how much emphasis is put on a family's standing within the wider community. Afi's relatively poor, widowed mother agrees to marry her daughter off for the prosperity and prestige it will bring them, and Afi feels the burden of this, trapped by her obligation to provide for her loved ones. Making it clear that money equals power within this society, Medie shows that it is only as Afi begins to gain her own financial security that she finds the confidence and means to defy those who seek to control her.

This arc that Afi follows throughout the novel is a pleasure to watch unfold as she transforms from a powerless, naïve girl who shyly submits to her husband to a bold and confident woman who stands defiant. It is particularly satisfying that her autonomy is ultimately won not through explosive drama but the cultivation of her own career, relationships and self-worth.

As Afi finds her voice and the story moves towards a somewhat inevitable conclusion, it becomes increasingly clear that our heroine is perhaps not so different from her supposed enemy. The implication that the two women have been pitted against each other precisely because they share a similar attitude of rebellion against the status quo is loaded with further thematic potential. It is here that the book may have benefited from a little more depth, when the "other woman" should arguably have been given her moment in the spotlight at last. Still, for its relatively understated approach, this is a propulsive novel that flips between easy-read escapism and meaningful social commentary with impressive ease.

Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin

This review is from the His Only Wife. It first ran in the September 16, 2020 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    by Marie Benedict
    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, notable author of previous historical fiction such ...
  • Book Jacket: To Be a Man
    To Be a Man
    by Nicole Krauss
    While, as its title hints, To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss is concerned with masculinity, it renders a ...
  • Book Jacket: The Office of Historical Corrections
    The Office of Historical Corrections
    by Danielle Evans
    In The Office of Historical Corrections, the second story collection from Danielle Evans, readers ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Dutch House
    by Ann Patchett

    The Dutch House is my introduction to Ann Patchett, which, after reading it, surprises me. I had ...


Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Fortunate Ones
    by Ed Tarkington

    An engrossing story of class, love, and loyalty for fans of Kevin Wilson's Nothing to See Here.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Prophets
    by Robert Jones Jr.

    A stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Moment of Lift
by Melinda Gates
How can we summon a moment of lift for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.
Who Said...

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T M T C, T M T Stay T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.