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What if you disappeared?

Cover of The Nigerwife
A review of The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters

I dropped into The Nigerwife without expectations. It was a book picked by the Lakeview Mystery Book Group members, from a list of suggested titles (created by me), last fall. But the picking of this year's books happened months ago and I didn't have much memory of why I'd put it on a list of suggestions back then. So when I picked it up now to read for the group, I just dove in. And I was so happy I did as it made it an intriguing and surprising read for me start to finish (though in fairness, not everyone in the group felt the same).

The Nigerwife of the title is Nicole Oruwari. Nicole is British-Jamaican and met her future husband, Tonye, at university. They fall in love, marry and have children. After the children are born, Tonye suggests that they move back to his home country of Nigeria. Once there Nicole joins his wealthy family's household but feels isolated and lonely. To make connections, she joins a group of other foreign wives married to Nigerian men, the Nigerwives. Seven years after moving to Lagos, Nicole finds her husband growing distant and the best friend she had in the group has gone missing. Nicole's life is unraveling and she doesn't know how to fix it. Then she goes missing. When her Auntie Claudine learns of her disappearance, she travels to Lagos to find her beloved (though estranged) niece. Once there, Claudine realizes, to her horror, that no one seems to care that Nicole is missing. Claudine is unwilling to be brushed off and decides if she wants Nicole found, she'll have to undertake the effort herself. The story is then told from a couple of points of view, Claudine's in the present day as she struggles to learn what's become of Nicole and Nicole's in the months and days leading up to her disappearance.

The Nigerwife is billed as a thriller, a descriptor that does the book, and readers, a disservice. Yes there's intrigue in what happened to Nicole, but the suspense is in the personal dramas of the people in her life. I loved it for the exploration of the lives of the Nigerwives (who really do have an organized group in Nigeria - that the author once belonged to) and the culture of Lagos. And I was drawn in by the characters from the first page. Other readers in the book group found it a bit slow going and the characters hard to root for. It is closer to Big Little Lies, maybe crossed with Crazy Rich Asians, than it is a crime thriller, True. But as both of those are books I've loved? It worked for me. Next up for the Lakeview Mystery Book Group is Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson. I'll keep you posted on how that one goes.

May 22, 2024