Can you imagine marrying someone in absentia and not just that, the person you are marrying is someone you’ve never spoken to and the person has a partner with a child already?!
“What had I gotten myself into? Would I be able to do what had been requested of me? Requested by Aunty, by my mother, by every guest here?”
— His Only Wife, Peace Adzo Medie
His Only Wife is a dramatic tale that centers Afi, a young seamstress in Ghana who is expected to make things right in a family that seems to have lost their son to a strange woman.
Traditions or Patriarchy?
The book opens with Ghanaian marital traditions being observed. This serves as a basis into realising that the book will be exploring traditions that are set to control women both in surface and in depth.
The actions & relationships in this book are fueled with patriarchy. Oh, patriarchy had such an awesome time in this book. It went from babying the men, to making marriage the ultimate goal & African mommies and aunties teaching “How To Make The Man Stay” Vol. 01, to placing male child as the better child/gender, family determining who their child needs to marry, to women being slut-shamed, to independent women & women not easily manipulated being seen as arrogant, ugly and unmarriageable. Patriarchy was practically dancing and whining its waist throughout the course of the book.
Family relatives who have done the barest minimum are breathing down one’s neck, expecting that one picks up their responsibility, instructions upon instructions on “how to get the husband” seem to be the order of the day.
Much Ado About Strength Levels
What do you do when everything you’ve been taught to do as a woman and a wife does not work on your husband?
“I couldn’t imagine spending all my days in this flat, waiting for Eli, my dear husband, to one day come and see me.”
— His Only Wife, Peace Adzo Medie
Afi’s character growth is one to look out for. We are introduced to a naive, spoon-fed Afi who is trying her best to be the wife her in-laws expect her to be. Through the course of the book, Afi’s experiences as a married woman in the most unusual marriage and the advice she gets from her friend helps to shape her. She does not, as a learning woman, make all the good decisions but Medie has written His Only Wife, in such a way that the reader should give room for character excesses.
I enjoyed Medie’s tries in showing what a woman able to make her own decisions in parallel character, Evelyn is. This also shows how people can be different in a similar situation.
Medie also enforces the belief that weakness is strength on its own and that it takes a lot to be able to do that which seems hard but will benefit one in the long run.
“Afi, you are not weak, there is nothing weak about you. Do you hear me? Don’t even think that. It takes strength to walk away from someone you love. You were brave to say that you didn’t want to be miserable, to have your heart break every time he walks out the door. I know I said to love with your head but I’m also the first person to tell you that it is hard to live like that. It is brutal and it eats at you every day and leaves you empty. Don’t beat yourself up for not choosing that life; you did the right thing. You deserve to be happy, to be with a man who wants to be only yours.”
—His Only Wife, Peace Adzo Medie
Economic power has always been a very powerful tool in the liberation of women from hurting situations. The economic strength Afi gathers for herself makes everything so much better for her.
The Other Woman Syndrome
She is an enigma here. This book makes you thirst for the knowledge of who the other woman is. Who she is and who she is said to be seem to contradict and this will make you wonder. However, Medie breaks the stereotypical belief that two women have to physically tussle over a man and I love this about the book. It reinforces the fact that one has to face the actual problem to deal with it.
Should You Read?
In this fast paced, dramatic rollercoaster, Medie explores womanhood, feminism, emotional manipulation, poverty, patriarchy and misogyny amongst many other necessary themes.
This book will have you shaking your head and talking sense to the characters. Yes, you should definitely read and we’ll both see if some things are worth it or not.