Summary and book reviews of His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

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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  • Published:
    Sep 2020, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

"Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding."

Afi Tekple is a young seamstress whose life is narrowing rapidly. She lives in a small town in Ghana with her widowed mother, spending much of her time in her uncle Pious's house with his many wives and children. Then one day she is offered a life-changing opportunity—a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Elikem Ganyo, a man she doesn't truly know. She acquiesces, but soon realizes that Elikem is not quite the catch he seemed. He sends a stand-in to his own wedding, and only weeks after Afi is married and installed in a plush apartment in the capital city of Accra does she meet her new husband. It turns out that he is in love with another woman, whom his family disapproves of; Afi is supposed to win him back on their behalf. But it is Accra that eventually wins Afi's heart and gives her a life of independence that she never could have imagined for herself.

A brilliant scholar and a fierce advocate for women's rights, author Peace Adzo Medie infuses her debut novel with intelligence and humor. For readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Candice Carty-Williams, His Only Wife is the story of an indomitable and relatable heroine that illuminates what it means to be a woman in a rapidly changing world.

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How does the opening sentence reflect the rest of the novel? What does it lead you to expect about how Afi and Eli's relationship would develop?
  2. How much do Afi's mother and her other relatives influence Afi's decision to marry Eli? Do you think she would have agreed to the union if this pressure were absent? Do you think women in your society are also subject to pressure to get married? If so, where does it come from and what does it look like?
  3. Do you think Afi's decision to marry Eli was the right one? Why?
  4. Other than their wish to see Afi and Eli married, are there other similarities between Afi's mother and Aunty?
  5. What are the ways in which the novel shows the effect that Afi's social class has on her choices and on the way her...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

There is clear critique here of the widespread practice of unofficial polygamy in Ghana. 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 the 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...continued

Full Review Members Only (593 words).

(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

Foreword Reviews
Afi's charm makes her an empowering example of modern womanhood...Its message bold and its viewpoint appealing, His Only Wife is an inspiring novel.

New York Times
Peace Adzo Medie’s mesmerizing debut novel lives up to both the power of its first sentence and the promise of its author’s first name. This is not a book to read with one eye on a beach volleyball tournament; it’s a story to soak up in silence, on a long, cloudy afternoon when you have time to think...At a time when adventure is scarce, Medie gives you a lot to look forward to, think about and be grateful for.

Minneapolis Star Tribune
A fierce and funny debut novel...A deeply engrossing chronicle of contemporary Ghanaian womanhood.

Shelf Awareness (starred review)
Medie gives Afi a voice that winningly combines insecurity, wisdom and dignity...The dramas of Afi's marriage and various family conflicts offer an entertaining plot rich with humor, but it is the story of the strong woman in a challenging and changing world that will capture readers' hearts. His Only Wife is a memorable novel of personal growth and choosing one's own destiny...[A] winning debut.

Publishers Weekly
[W]hile the relentless pacing leaves little room for reflection on her emotional turmoil, Medie succeeds at channeling Afi's desires and desperation. This stirring tale sings when Afi learns to flex her limited power.

Booklist
In her debut novel, Medie writes with a precise rhythm that builds the reader’s anticipation. Themes like deception, ambition, love, and values drench the pages with conflict that evolves into an emotional rollercoaster.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[D]elightful...A Crazy Rich Asians for West Africa, with a healthy splash of feminism.

Author Blurb Wayetu Moore, author of She Would Be King
A hilarious, page-turning, sharply realized portrait of modern womanhood in the most infuriating of circumstances. A gem of a debut.

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Beyond the Book

Contemporary Ghanaian Women Writers

In her novel His Only Wife, Peace Adzo Medie captures the clash of tradition and modernity in present day Ghana. Medie belongs to a long line of talented women writers who show the country's rich culture and history to be bountiful sources of inspiration. Here are just a few of the most exciting Ghanaian women on the current literary scene.

Ama Ata Aidoo Ama Ata Aidoo was born in a Fanti village in 1942. Her father, the village chief, established the first school there and encouraged her to pursue education from a young age. Now a successful novelist, poet and playwright, she has served as Ghana's Minister for Education and founded the Mbaasem Foundation, an organization that actively supports African women writers. Her best-known works include ...

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