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Review: His Only Wife By Peace Adzo Medie

A slice of life novel about a young woman living in impoverished circumstances in the Ghanaian village of Ho, who gets the opportunity to marry into a wealthy family. Afi, the protagonist, is beautiful and smart but has done poorly in her secondary school exams and can’t Ghana’s public universities. Instead she faces a life playing seamstress to the unexciting women of Ho.

She is chosen by the village’s ‘big woman’ – a well-to-do resident – who believes Afi’s innocent charms will seduce her son away from the Liberian woman he has taken up with. Afi is married to the son, moved to Accra, put into accommodations more sophisticated than anything she has experienced before, given a driver and allowed to apprentice with an influential seamstress.

It’s like a fairy tale. Except for the small matter of a husband she is expected to win away from his mistress.

His Only Wife is warm and humorous and dives into a range of themes that impact contemporary African lives including polygamy, the legacy of European colonialism, gender roles, and expectations of young women. It also sets up an interesting binary between village and city life and asks whether one is more authentically African than the other.

Afi is a brave, engaging character that you can’t help but root for. Through the circle of women around her we explore a variety of ways African women experience the world. It is refreshing to have a story with no villains, just a group of people striving to find happiness.

Peace Adzo Medie has a deft touch and manages to craft a story that is light yet compelling, simple but powerful. It’s an immersive experience as she utilizes the senses in a way that brings her world to life in vivid colour.  

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