Book Reviews

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie: ARC Book Review

This is a spoiler-free review.

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Published September 1st, 2020 by Workman Publishing.

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“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.

Thank you to the publisher, Workman Audio, and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC of this audiobook. All thoughts are my own.

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

What an incredible first line! I was instantly hooked the moment I heard it. Paired with its’ advertisement as a feminist West African version of Crazy Rich Asians, I knew I had to read this book.

His Only Wife tells the story of Afi, a young woman living with her mother in a small town in Ghana. She and her widowed mother are poor and shunned by her extended family. Luckily, however, Afi is a talented seamstress. Between these skills and her mother’s close friendship with a wealthy benefactor, they are able to get by. But soon this benefactor comes calling and requests that Afi be married to her son – Elikem.

Enthusiastic to do her part and support her family, Afi readily agrees. But her marriage to Elikem winds up not being as perfect of a match as it first seemed. Once married, the secret comes out: Elikem is in love with another woman – one his family does not approve of. And Afi, once relocated to the city of Accra, finds herself with much more free time on her hands than she could have ever expected. Feeling empowered by her brother-in-law’s mistress, Afi strikes out on her own and looks to attend a school for fashion design.

But Elikem’s family is quick to reign her in and remind her of her familial duty. She must make Elikem fall in love with her – and out of love with his mistress.

“It was either the woman or me. He couldn’t have both of us.”

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this book! And honestly, even if I had had expectations, His Only Wife probably still would have surprised me!

His Only Wife offers both interesting insights into the daily lives of contemporary Ghanian women and a feminist look at polygamy and arranged marriages in modern-day West Africa. In the main character, Afi Tekple, Adzo Medie provides her readers with the fresh perspective of a young woman, faced with the realities of married life and the complications that come with it, finally coming into her own. Throughout the story we see Afi grow and mature and change from a naive, unassuming girl into a strong, independent woman in her own right who knows her worth and never accepts less than what she deserves.

I found Afi instantly likable and was truly rooting for her to achieve happiness – whatever that might look like – the entire time, even knowing myself that the way things were going that was unlikely – at least in the form of a loving, marriage of equality. Nevertheless, I think Adzo Medie flawlessly concluded Afi’s story. I LOVED where she took it. My jaw dropped at the reveal about 90% of the way in, and I barely was able to pick it up off the floor until after I had finished the entire thing.

“All men are the same, they only know how to love themselves and to sit on women.”

This book was a quick, fun read that I breezed through without even realizing it. The prose is uncomplicated and enjoyable. The premise utterly engaging. And the plot line is subtle enough to surprise you along the way; so much so that when you finally take a break from reading you realize you’ve found yourself completely immersed within its pages. Highly recommend!

What books have you read that were set in West Africa?

Let me know!

Liza is a twenty-something book blogger who spends way too much time with her nose in books and feels way too much. She loves cooking, baking, reality tv show watching and, of course, reading. She can be found most often with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Her blog, Literary Liza, features bookish content like reviews, recommendations, and author interviews.

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