“Elikem married me in absentia;….” A review of Peace Adzo Medie’s His Only Wife | Temitope Oni

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This book had my attention from the first page. I love the story! I love the familiarity; it felt nostalgic, like I was watching one of those old Nollywood movies. It was gripping. It was unpredictable, with unexpected turns. And it is a debut novel! Stunning! But then I’d leave you to come to your own conclusion on that and how the story ends. In fact, we invite you to share your thoughts if you’ve read the book or are yet to.

This is Afi’s story. A young woman living in a small town in Accra, with her widowed mother. Afi had dreams and prospect. But the demise of her father meant she could not go to university, nor marry someone of her choosing. This sets the tone for the remarkable opening statement of the book: “Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”

Afi and Elikem Ganyo, are getting married. He is the first son of Aunty Faustina Ganyo, a very rich and influential woman; everyone is practically indebted to and fear her, Afi’s mother inclusive. It is the reason she agrees to marry her daughter to a man who could not even come to his own wedding. A man who had a stand-in at his own wedding. You will find nuanced scenarios like this throughout the book. So aside from addressing the subject of patriarchy, the book takes a witty turn here and there.

Back to Afi. I really grew to love her in the book; in fact, from the first line, I was in love with her personality. I went through a range of emotions with and for her. The first of which was extreme pity–she was forced into an arrangement she would never have agreed to if she had the choice. She was guilt-tripped into marriage with a husband whom everyone expected her to see and treat like a prized possession. They made it look like she was going into the marriage to redeem and get him out of the shackles of the ‘other woman’. –which is actually not the case. He was painted as an unwilling helpless man who needed saving and worshiping.

When the husband didn’t show up for the wedding, I was afraid with Afi. I was afraid she was married without his consent, and he would never accept her. I was happy when she fell in love with him and him seemingly with her, in fact I was rooting for them and hating on the other woman whom they all referred to as the Liberian woman.

I believed that Elikem was really with the Liberian woman because of his daughter, and he didn’t love her. I hated the Liberian woman for keeping him away from his family and not allowing them to visit. I believed everything they said about her; I didn’t even care to know her story or her name, I believed the story that she was using their daughter as a tool to drag Elikem back and forth. It was much later as the story began to unfold that I started to see the lies for what they were. It was then I stopped seeing her as just the ‘other woman’. I got to know her name, Muna and that she was also a victim of a controlling family and an undecided son.

To be honest, Elikem’s personality was lovable. He looked like the perfect gentleman, every woman’s dream and it was so believable that he loved Afi, he made it seem like he really wanted to be with her and not the ‘other woman’ and he was really going to do something about it. Even his family made Afi believe that he was going to leave the other woman. Only to find out that all those times he said he was taking Afi’s son to the office, the office was actually the other woman’s house. For him to say he loved them both was more like he wanted to eat his cake and have it.

One beautiful thing to see in the story though is Afi’s growth. She grew from being a somewhat shy woman to an outspoken woman who would not take nonsense. I like that she knew what she wanted from the beginning. She knew she wanted to be a seamstress and she went into it with full force. She learnt to drive against the wishes of others. She refused to just sit and enjoy her newfound status. She got to work, dreaming, and actualising it. She is the epitome of a strong, independent woman; She refused to be a puppet, submitting to the will of her overbearing, and controlling in-laws. She stood her ground and got what she wanted. When it was time to make a very hard decision seeing that she could not settle into the arrangement that had been made for her under such dishonest circumstances, she took the hard decision to leave and stand by it.

It was also her strength that gave her mother the freedom she needed. She opened her mother’s eyes to the reality she had been too blinded by gratitude to see. And oh, she was stubborn, and I love it! In all it was a good book, one I could not help but finish in the shortest possible time. One day hopefully I can read it slowly.

Let me know your thoughts below.

Grab a copy of the book here.

Peace Adzo Medie’s Photo by Sylvernus Darku/Team Black Image Studio

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