WWW Wednesday – The One Where I Talk About “His Only Wife” by Peace Adzo Medie

Happy Wednesday, bookish peeps! Long time no see!

School has had me in a chokehold these last few weeks, but I’m back with one of the juiciest books reviews I’ve read all year as a part of this week’s reading check-in for WWW Wednesday. 

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

If you’re following me on Twitter, you may remember my play-by-play reading marathon for the masterpiece that is His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie.

Dr. Medie has written an enthralling story about a young couple, Afi and Eli, as they try to dodge their meddling families and the pressures that come from following Ghanaian traditions to find footing in their marriage. 

Oh! And there’s the troublesome hurdle of another woman who Afi, our narrator, must “get rid of” to find her happily ever after. No biggie, though…or so she thinks. 

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Dr. Medie’s story is gripping from the first sentence when the reader finds out that Afi is set to marry Eli with his brother standing in for him since Eli is on a business trip and can’t make it to the wedding. 

Do you see the problem yet?

What drew me to His Only Wife is how well Dr. Medie situates readers inside Afi and Eli’s relationship. Her writing places characters into situations that feel like a stretch logically. Yet, they are so well-written that even when the reader knows better, you get sucked into wanting and believing for what the characters wish too, because the author is that good at stirring up the drama of her characters’ lives. 

For instance, even from the first page in His Only Wife, when Eli doesn’t show at the wedding, I was standing in faith alongside Afi and believing what Eli’s family and her mother were selling Afi about the “other woman.” And I’m sure anyone reading this review can already tell how wild this line of reasoning would be in real life. 

Peace Adzo Medie

But, the way Dr. Medie structures her story really takes hold while you are reading this book. To the point, you will believe this farce about the “other woman” having such a hold on Eli that can only be broken once he falls in love with Afi until you close the book and it hits you how crazy this plan was from the beginning.

His Only Wife has a little something for everyone in it. From a slow burn relationship to insights about how familial and romantic relationships work in Ghanaian culture from a rural and urban perspective and across generations as Afi gains advice about her and Eli’s relationship from various women in her life’s perspective. I especially enjoyed learning more about these parts of Dr. Medie’s book from her in my interview, which you can check out here.

Dr. Medie’s book is one I can’t recommend enough for its dynamic characters, in-depth critique of the Ghanaian cultural and women’s roles in it, and just for being an excellent book to read and react to.

As cliched as it sounds, I enjoyed having the feeling of “discussion” around His Only Wife and not being able to guess what would happen next as I read. Even with how predictable the “other woman” trope may seem in the beginning, I couldn’t have predicted exactly how Afi and Eli’s love story would play out. Getting to live-tweet my reaction and discuss my thoughts with a group was probably my favorite thing about this book.

You’ll definitely want this book as your next book club read!

What are you currently reading?

Thanks to school, I’m still holding off reading the last 10% of The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Jeffers book has taken me through it in every way possible. And oddly enough, I don’t want it to be over just yet. So, I’m still reading it.

I’ve also slowly but surely been making my way through The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. I’m now on book four, which is Broken Homes. Peter Grant is quickly becoming one of my favorite literary characters for his wit, perspective, and ability to almost always end up at the short end of the stick of magic wielders. 

My one issue with Aaronovitcth’s books is over time, it can become increasingly hard to separate the pro-police stance of the book and jokes Peter cracks about how coppers work inside with how vicious actual police tactics’ abroad can be. There are moments where Peter mentions how in the “old days,” a cop would go and “rough” a suspect up just because he could. These insights feel tone-deaf and wonky. 

I say this because even though Peter is a man of mixed heritage and a cop, it’s clear this is Aaronovitch using Peter as a mouthpiece to say these things instead of it being a case where Peter is just being Peter. Since Peter will follow these moments up acknowledging that cops don’t like Black men who look like him (which is highlighted in a racially charged scene in the first book with a superior). 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the stories atmosphere and the banter in the books. But, I do have moments when the story and backstories all feel a bit choppy.

On a lighter note, I’m currently reading The Checklist by Addie Woolridge. Woolridge’s story follows a “girl next door” type of romance about Dylan Delacroix, who temporarily moves back home to Seattle to help an eccentric tech CEO fix his flailing company. While she’s home, she finds sparks flying with Mike, the sun of her Bohemian family’s buttoned-up neighborhood rivals. I have laughed so hard at the characters in this book and their shenanigans.

If you’re looking for a palette cleanser after a heavy read, pick this one up! It’s free on Kindle Unlimited.

What will you read next?

As a mood reader, I don’t know what I’ll be reading next.

I have talked about a few of my top priorities on my TBR List in the previous post. So, check them out down below!

                  What are you reading now?

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Happy reading!

Author Interview With Peace Adzo Medie

The Book

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

“Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”

Afi Tekple is a young seamstress whose life is narrowing rapidly. She lives in a small town in Ghana with her widowed mother, spending much of her time in her uncle Pious’s house with his many wives and children. Then one day she is offered a life-changing opportunity—a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Elikem Ganyo, a man she doesn’t truly know. She acquiesces, but soon realizes that Elikem is not quite the catch he seemed. He sends a stand-in to his own wedding, and only weeks after Afi is married and installed in a plush apartment in the capital city of Accra does she meet her new husband. It turns out that he is in love with another woman, whom his family disapproves of; Afi is supposed to win him back on their behalf. But it is Accra that eventually wins Afi’s heart and gives her a life of independence that she never could have imagined for herself.

A brilliant scholar and a fierce advocate for women’s rights, author Peace Adzo Medie infuses her debut novel with intelligence and humor. For readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Candice Carty-Williams, His Only Wife is the story of an indomitable and relatable heroine that illuminates what it means to be a woman in a rapidly changing world.

The Interview

Adira: Ms. Medie, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me today!

Your writing in His Only Wife had me so compelled and invested from its first sentence to the point where I pulled an all-nighter to finish it. 

Can you tell me about how you came up with the idea for your novel and what or who influenced your writing process?

Peace Adzo Medie: The influence for His Only came from several places, including my research. I study how gender norms affect various areas of women’s lives, including how these norms impact on their relationships, including marriage. I have published a book on the response to gender-based violence in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and the novel was another vehicle through which I could explore how these norms affect women’s lives.

Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence against Women in Africa by Peace Adzo Medie

A: Like you, I come from an academic background and am big on research that pushes for the conversation of advocacy for vulnerable populations, such as women, children, and those without sufficient resources. You currently also have a scholastic book out now called Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaign to End Violence against Women in Africa. Is there a connection between His Only Wife and this nonfiction work? If so, did your research for either book influence the other?

PAM: Yes, one of the findings from ‘Global Norms and Local Action’ was that women’s relatives and friends influenced the decisions they made after they experienced intimate partner violence. For example, some women told me they stayed in an abusive relationship because of pressure from a parent. While physical violence is not a theme in His Only Wife, pressure from family is a major issue in the book. And I chose to write about it partly because of my research. 

A: For Afi and Eli, community plays a huge part in their decisions throughout your book. How would you define community, and how did you use that definition to influence how you wrote the characters and settings in your novels?

PAM: Community describes the people closest to us, those we rely on and are accountable to, those in whom we see ourselves. It is the nuclear family, but also the extended family and those not related to us but surround us and touch our lives in manifold ways. In His Only Wife, most characters, especially Afi and Eli, are very concerned about their community, particularly their extended family, and this shapes much of what they do. The story underlines the connection between community expectations and character’s daily decisions and actions. 

A: As a social worker, when thinking about clients, I am always confronted with the notion of class and gender and the inherent social boundaries of each. These two things, along with the client’s race, often influence what choices are available to that person and if they are hindered or helped by the resources that are open to them. 

With His Only Wife, you show readers so many variations of how gender and class are tackled by each woman and woven into the fabric of their lives in their backgrounds, the jobs that are available to them, who they can date, and even the food they choose to eat. Was there a significance to how you explored these themes in the building of community in the novel and the character development of Afi, Evelyn, and Mawusi versus the older generation of women in your book (Aunty & Afi’s mother)?

PAM: Yes, I wanted to show how socioeconomic factors limit the options that are available to women, particularly young women like Afi. Many of the decisions that Afi and her mother made were guided by her socioeconomic status. In fact, I don’t think that Afi would have received that marriage proposal if she were from a well-off family, so we see class at play from the very beginning. I sought to show how the socioeconomic status of each character, especially the women impacted on what was possible in their lives. I especially wanted to show how experiences diverged and how some people succeed in climbing the economic ladder and how this then impacted their relationship with those around them.

A: Throughout your novel, there is an emphasis placed on the distinction between a “ceremonial wedding” and a “church wedding.” Does this hold cultural significance for Ghanaian culture, or was this written to help build tension for the drama of your novel? And if it was done for the novel’s sake, why was Elikem’s family so sure it would “fix” him?

PAM: I think a lot of people in Ghana have the traditional wedding and the church wedding. The latter is a relatively new practice that came with Christianity. However, the traditional wedding (and marriage) is deeply rooted and holds great significance in Ghanaian cultures. It usually involves both families, because it is not only about the bride and groom. There is a cultural and legal distinction between these two types of marriages; this is why many people have both. 

A: I loved your writing in His Only Wife so much! Are you working on any new books or a sequel or film adaption to this novel?

PAM: Thank you! Yes, I’m writing my second novel, Nightbloom. It’s a book about female friendship and is set in Ghana and the US.  It explores two childhood friends and their bond over several decades. 

A: Thank you for answering my questions! I can’t wait to read more of your work!

PAM: Thanks for the questions! 


Author Bio

Peace Adzo Medie

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 was 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.