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The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy    by Paulina Chiziane order for
First Wife
by Paulina Chiziane
Order:  USA  Can
Archipelago Books, 2016 (2016)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

The subtitle of this book is A Tale of Polygamy, and what a tale it is. Rami, who lives in Mozambique, has been wondering about her husband's absences, and when she investigates, it turns out that he has been keeping house with four other women! How she goes about discovering this, and what she does about it is just as interesting as her ruminations on love, marriage, men and women, and the place of geography in this discussion.

For those like me who know very little about polygamy, which happens to be legal in much of Africa, this novel manages to explain a great deal about what it is and is not; how the wives feel about sharing a husband; how property rights work; and finally, how the husband feels about it, especially when finally seeing things from the wives' point of view.

This is the first published novel by a woman in Mozambique (translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw). It is also a terrific story of women coming together and daring to become enterprising individuals, despite being held down by an oppressive society and tradition. The author depicts how difficult the balance is between the old ways and the new, and how both sexes are really caught in the trap of custom. Highly recommended.

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