Peace Adzo Medie’s debut novel “His Only Wife” tells the story of Afi Tekple, a young woman from a small town in Ghana who is thrust into a world of wealth and privilege when she is selected as the wife of Elikem Ganyo, a successful businessman in the capital city of Accra. Medie weaves together a story that explores themes of love, family, tradition, and gender roles while also revealing the similarities between Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures.
One of the most prominent themes in the novel is the importance of family and tradition. Afi comes from a tight-knit community in a rural part of Ghana, where family ties and traditions are central to daily life. However, when she moves to the city to marry Elikem, she is confronted with a very different way of life. Elikem’s family is wealthy and sophisticated, and they do not place the same value on traditional customs and beliefs as Afi does. She finds herself torn between her loyalty to her family and the expectations of her new husband and his family.
Through Afi’s experiences, Medie highlights the similarities between Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures in their emphasis on the importance of family and tradition. Both cultures have deep roots in extended family networks and traditional customs that play a significant role in everyday life. However, as the novel shows, these traditions can clash with modern ideals and lifestyles.
Another theme in the novel is Medie’s exploration of the restrictions of gender roles. Afi is a strong and independent woman determined to make her way in the world, but she is also expected to conform to traditional gender roles. She struggles with the conflict between her desire for independence and her responsibilities as a wife and mother. This conflict is particularly relevant in Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures, where gender roles are deeply entrenched, and women are often expected to prioritize their roles as wives and mothers above their aspirations and desires.
Medie also explores the theme of love and the various forms it can take. Afi’s marriage to Elikem is one of convenience, but she eventually falls in love with him. However, their relationship is complicated by Elikem’s ongoing affair with his ex-girlfriend, which forces Afi to confront the reality of their marriage and the sacrifices she has made to be with him. Through Afi’s experiences, Medie shows how love can be both a source of strength and a source of pain and how it can take many forms.
The novel also addresses the theme of social class and the barriers it can create. Afi comes from a humble background and is initially overwhelmed by the wealth and privilege of Elikem’s family. However, she quickly learns that wealth and status do not guarantee happiness or fulfilment. She also discovers that she has a lot to offer, both as a person and as a member of her community. Through Afi’s journey, Medie highlights similarities between Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures in their struggles with social inequality and the limitations it can impose on individuals.
Overall, “His Only Wife” is a beautifully written novel that offers a unique perspective on the complexities of love, family, tradition, and gender roles in many African cultures. Medie’s writing is engaging and thought-provoking, and her characters are complex and nuanced. Through Afi’s experiences, Medie shows us that despite the many differences between Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures, there are also many similarities, particularly in the importance of family and tradition, the role of gender in society, and the struggle with social inequality.
One of the novel’s strengths is its portrayal of strong female characters who challenge traditional gender roles and expectations. Afi is a particularly compelling character as she struggles to balance her desire for independence with her responsibilities.