In an age where anything practiced by our forebears is described as evil, where people (educated) would gladly accept homosexuals and condemn polygamists, only because the former is accepted by the West and the latter not, we read of an educated and independent, but married woman, Esi finding love in an already married man, Ali. Esi is married to Oko but feels suffocated by the presence of her husband, feels psychologically oppressed and so would not even offer him sex on the pretense of tiredness and work, so that when he 'jumped on' her one early morning, she treated it as marital rape and would later file for divorce. and having met and fallen in love with Ali, she would become the second wife of Ali.
Ama Ata Aidoo However, her archetypal parents, especially her grandmother, wouldn't hear of this. They all found something very wrong with her and her decision to leave a monogamous marriage, where the husband is not even known to have concubines or cheat on her, only to enter a polygamous one and one that takes her across cultures and religions. Esi, though is not your usual Church-going Christian, is generally regarded as a Christian since according to the religious dynamics of Ghana anyone who is not what we refer to loosely as a 'Northerner' and who hasn't converted to Islam is considered a Christian, and for her to choose to become a second wife of Ali, a Muslim with the liberty to marry more than two, is more than difficult to understand; but that is what Esi is, difficult to understand.Marrying Ali, Esi suddenly began showing all that Oko, her ex-husband, wanted in her: cooking, loving, sex and being there. With this we know that Esi's claims of oppression by Oko wasn't what led to the divorce, nor even the marital rape. 'As you know, my job can be very demanding sometimes. I have to prepare materials for ministers, permanent secretaries... you know, such people. And then I have to do a lot of travelling; inside the country, outside. Oko resented every minute he was free and I couldn't be with him' (Page 54). 'Supper is ready,' she announced. Food. Another source of pleasure when you were with Esi, Ali was thinking. She cooked like nobody else he knew or had known (Page 91). All through the story we get to know that Esi did almost everything that she never did for Oko for Ali. And when nemesis visited and Ali's 'free time' whittled out Esi was forced to accept that fate. And there was a woman involved. Later we are to find that marriage and love alone do not a good relationship make.
Along Esi story, is the story of her friend Opokuya and her husband Kubi, an interesting couple with their own problems. But what if Kubi loved Esi?
The story is a true-to life story but one that would happen infrequently. The prose spoke to me on several levels. For instance, I was able to relate to some of the jargons used in this book such as when 'armstrong' was used to refer to a thrift or a skinflint.
This is my first reading of Ama Ata Aidoo, and her story Anowa is on my reading list. Recommended? Yes, highly recommended.