I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.com
Afi Tekple has grown up with a widowed mother who is “beholden,” as we used to say, to wealthy woman in the community for her home, her job, her daughter’s education. When “Auntie” [as the lady is known] needs a wife for her well-off, son to tempt him away from the “foreign” woman who is the mother of his child, her gaze falls on Afi. No matter that the son cannot show up for the [traditional] wedding–it goes on with a brother as his proxy.
Afi is then parked in a luxury apartment in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, a modern city with all the normal upper-class diversions. Only one problem–Elikem or “Elie” as he is known, rarely visits the apartment in the same luxury development expatriates and his own brother’s current girlfriend live. How can Afi be a wife without a husband?
I did not like Afi. That is not to say I like Elie, either. Afi was no naive American marrying a Ghanaian hotshot. She knew the score. She knew the men of her area and ethnic group. Elie just did what men do there. I found her whining to be about as tone deaf as Meghan Markle’s. I thought she was very spoiled and tried to hard to feel put-out over everything.
As for Elie, if Afi had bothered to listen, he was as upfront as most men would ever be about his situation. Malawi, where I lived, is a world away from Ghana in most ways, but traditional culture is very much the same in many places on the African continent. One successful person supports several villages worth of relatives. Men have their ways. Women accept them–or not.
Afi’s friend was basically right. By all that he knew, Elie WAS a good man. And, yes, many women would have–and willingly. So what was up with precious little Afi? She no longer lived in the dreary shack of a house her mother rented from Auntie. She had the career she wanted in the city to have it in and her son would grow up with almost unlimited privileged. It wasn’t enough.
I’m sure I’m supposed to side with Afi and see her as a champion for women. And, she was a champion for women. But, again, like Meghan Markle, she’d have nothing without the guy having provided it! It’s not that no other Ghanaian women think like Afi–I’m sure there are millions who do. To be the only wife is every woman’s dream. In no culture is plural marriage or the “bit on the side” taken without insult. It was just the WAY Afi whined about it. I did not hear maturity in it. I heard only “I want, I want, I deserve,” yet never a reason for it. Why was she worthy? Why did she and not the other woman deserve this commitment? That is what was truly lacking in this story.
In spite of my feelings for Afi, the story was well-told. I did not like having an American voice read the book. When a book is set elsewhere, I want to hear the accent of that country in the audio book.
His Only Wife: A Novel by Peace Adzo Medie
Other Titles I’ve Read From Reece Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club
Everything Inside: Stories by Edwidge Danticat
The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley
Next Year in Havana: A Novel by Chancel Cleeton
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman