The Nigerwife

Atria. May 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781668011089. $27.99. SUSPENSE
DEBUT The dichotomy between the beauty and rot of modern Lagos is exposed from page one of Walters’s first novel, the delicious tension building throughout this penetrating novel of family secrets and cultural dissonance. Nicole, of Jamaican descent, meets her Nigerian husband Tonye while at university in the UK. The birth of two sons in quick succession dampen her career ambitions, and Tonye’s proposal to relocate to his family’s Italianate compound in Lagos offers a respite from the exhaustion of motherhood. But the attentive Tonye whom Nicole married in London morphs into a withholding man who simmers under the thumb of his domineering father. By the time Nicole physically disappears, she had been psychologically absent from her British family for years, but that does not prevent her aunt Claudine, who raised Nicole after her mother’s death, from getting on the next plane. Claudine’s fearless questioning of Tonye’s family, the bought-and-paid-for police, and the women who form the support group Nigerwives reveals that the idyllic life Nicole shared on social media had little basis in reality.
VERDICT British poet and playwright Walters, once a Nigerwife herself, paints a vivid picture of the financial and social constraints that European women face assimilating into Nigerian familial structure. Already optioned for HBO, this cultural critique couched in a mystery is a sure winner.
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