Peace Adzo Medie's His Only Wife asks if a woman can truly be happy when her husband - and everyone she knows - thinks it takes three or more to tango.
"Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding."
Girl. Bruh didn't even come to his own wedding?
*Carrie Bradshaw voice* And just like that, author Peace Adzo Medie hooked me with the very first line of His Only Wife, her very first novel, thanks to an August 2020 tweet from her colleague and hype woman, Dr. Elspeth Van Vereen. No wonder Reese Witherspoon snatched it up for her book club.
Last weekend, my pre-pandemic attention span returned like a spaniel who finds his way home after his humans tearfully drop him off at Old McDonald's farm, and I read His Only Wife cover to cover.
Yes, the promise of that first line was met, and those pages all but turned themselves as I became immersed in Afi Tekple's business, the business of marriage. Afi, an earnest young Ghanian seamstress with a sewing machine and a (vague) dream, has been voluntold to lift her family's fortunes by marrying Eli Ganyos, a rich, handsome man she barely knows, in hopes of weakening his ties to a woman his family thinks is inappropriate.
Hijinks most definitely ensue.
But Medie's empathy for her heroine runs too deep for His Only Wife to be purely a pandemic, Jane Austen Goes to Ghana escape. Afi goes through it, and Medie makes us feel her confusion and heartache in a way that transcends the literary equivalent of juicy gossip.
In only a few years, Afi's luxurious and disorienting new life with an elusive stranger turned husband teaches her more than the university whose entrance exams she never aced ever could. Our girl was already smart. Now she's learning life lessons. Can Afi really choose her own destiny when she and her marriage are considered communal property?
("No." -- Jane Austen)
Yet Afi shocks her family, friends, Eli, and the pearl-clutching reader by learning when to hold on tight during this rollercoaster ride of a marriage - and when to let go, the strong winds of Ghanian tradition be damned.
*Kelli from Insecure voice* You know what that is? GROWTH.