His Only Wife
By Peace Adzo Medie
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Paperback / 304 pages / $16.95
Peace Adzo Medie’s captivating debut novel, HIS ONLY WIFE (Available in Paperback: August 3, 2021; $16.95), paints a nuanced portrait of a young African woman who must forge her own sense of identity and worth within the strictures of a less-than-ideal arranged marriage. Medie, who is also an accomplished academic in the UK and her native Ghana and the author of the seminal text Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence Against Women in Africa, displays a great talent for fiction writing, crafting a deceptively breezy narrative that invites readers into the intimate world of its heroine, Afi—a world that straddles traditional expectations and modern desires. As Afi navigates the pressures of an unusual marital situation, she also learns to exert her own independence in unexpected ways.
Afi is a young seamstress living in the small town of Ho when she is betrothed to Eli, the successful son of her family’s benefactor. The marriage has been arranged by Eli’s family in an effort to get him away from his Liberian mistress, a woman viewed as unsuitable by all. Eli is not even at the wedding—the couple is married by proxy. Afi moves into a luxury apartment in Accra, the bustling capital city, but weeks go by without a visit from her new husband. She enrolls in design school and begins to build a life for herself. When Afi and Eli do finally consummate their marriage, the attraction and affection between them is real. But, Eli continues his second life with the other woman, leaving Afi confused about her options.
HIS ONLY WIFE “is a commentary on the value that is placed on marriage in Ghanaian and most African societies (and in many other places in the world),” Medie says. “This emphasis on marriage and its association with womanhood, places a great deal of pressure on young women and causes many to settle for relationships that are often unfulfilling and unhappy.” At its heart, the novel is a story of a young woman coming into her own and finding her voice. It also offers a unique glimpse into a very unconventional marriage, and into life in Ghana. HIS ONLY WIFE “is also a feminist novel,” Medie adds, “but not in a way that might be familiar to many readers. This is because Afi’s path to finding her voice is circuitous and not always empowering.”
Depicting a way of life that may surprise many uninitiated Western readers, HIS ONLY WIFE is also “a hilarious, page-turning, sharply realized portrait of modern womanhood in the most infuriating of circumstances. A gem of a debut,” says Wayetu Moore, author of She Would Be King.
I love a good domestic drama that shares insight into different cultures. His Only Wife is a beautifully woven story about afi discovering herself and path in life while battling with societal expections and family pressure. For me it was different from what I usually read and I really enjoyed getting lost in Afi’s journey mostly because she is such an amazing character I loved that she was so strong and truly good.
Peace Adzo Medie writes a beautiful tale of one womens journey in Ghana that is absoulety unputdownable.
Peace Adzo Medie is a Ghanaian writer and Senior Lecturer in Gender and International Politics at the University of Bristol in England. Prior to that she was a Research Fellow at the University of Ghana. She has published several short stories, and her book, Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence Against Women in Africa will be published by Oxford University Press in 2020. She is an award-winning scholar and has been awarded several fellowships. She holds a PhD in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in Geography from the University of Ghana. She was born in Liberia.