I thought this was an easy read, and ended up reading it one sitting. The story is frustrating in so many ways—mainly Eli and Aunty’s treatment of Afi. They for sure underestimated Afi and thought that she would be easily swayed by living a life of luxury. But Afi could not let herself be caged in and I respected the fact she stood up to them.
Now the ending. So I’m glad Afi left Eli after seeing that his heart is still with the other woman (did we ever learn her name??). But I wanted more. I think it would have been good if the author had an epilogue set in the future so that we know more of what happens to Afi after leaving Eli.
Afi Tekple is a young seamstress in Ghana. She is smart; she is pretty; and she has been convinced by her mother to marry a man she does not know. Afi knows who he is, of course—Elikem is a wealthy businessman whose mother has chosen Afi in the hopes that she will distract him from his relationship with a woman his family claims is inappropriate. But Afi is not prepared for the shift her life takes when she is moved from her small hometown of Ho to live in Accra, Ghana’s gleaming capital, a place of wealth and sophistication where she has days of nothing to do but cook meals for a man who may or may not show up to eat them. She has agreed to this marriage in order to give her mother the financial security she desperately needs, and so she must see it through. Or maybe not?
His Only Wife is a witty, smart, and moving debut novel about a brave young woman traversing the minefield of modern life with its taboos and injustices, living in a world of men who want their wives to be beautiful, to be good cooks and mothers, to be women who respect their husbands and grant them forbearance. And in Afi, Peace Medie has created a delightfully spunky and relatable heroine who just may break all the rules.
His Only Wife Book Club Questions
- Let’s first talk about the beginning of the novel at Afi’s wedding where the groom is a no-show. What did that say about Eli’s interest in this marriage?
- Afi is in an impossible situation. Eli’s mother, Aunty, helped her family when they were struggling. And by her marrying Eli, it will help Afi’s mother financially. But she’s still forced to marry a man she hardly knows. What would you have done if you were Afi?
- Afi moves into one of Eli’s many places and is now experiencing a life of luxury. But her focus is still on making Eli happy. What did you think about their first in-person interaction as husband and wife?
- Eli’s family pushed this marriage because they disapproved of Eli’s girlfriend, who he has a child with. They tell Afi all these lies about the woman that turn out not to be true. Why do you think the family was so against the other woman? Do you think they assumed Afi was easy to manipulate?
- Eventually, Afi and Eli get closer— but mainly through a physical connection. Afi is convinced she’s in love with Eli but do you think Eli ever truly loved her?
- How did having a child change the entire dynamic between the two?
- What did you think about the setting in Ghana?
- Afi wants to move into Eli’s main house but that’s where his girlfriend stays. She demands to move in but Eli refuses, so she packs up and moves back home with her mom, which upsets everyone. Let’s talk about this key decision by Afi.
- When did it become apparent to Afi that Aunty had ulterior motives the entire time?
- Afi does eventually move into the house but the relationship goes through ups and downs. However, they eventually get into a routine—until she is face to face with the other woman. What are some of the key ways that Eli showed he was more committed to other woman?
- Were you happy to see Afi leave Eli?
- What did you think about the ending? What happens next for Afi? Do you think she did fall in love with Eli?
- Let’s talk about the dynamics of the men and women in this novel and how many of the men seemed to expect they can control women.
- When Afi confronts Eli about the other woman at the end of the novel, she says to him that he wouldn’t like it if she also saw another man while with Eli. Let’s talk about this double standard that men like Eli try to hold on women.
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for His Only Wife! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi is a compelling and heart wrenching story.
Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is another thought-provoking novel.
Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.