A recent post by my blogging bud Melanie over at GTL about the now-famous thriller novel Gone Girl reminded me of the the far-reaching impact that book had on the publishing industry, which is an affect that is still obvious today. The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters is an obvious comparison to this book, as it’s also about a wealthy beautiful wife who goes missing, and the husband acting as the prime suspect. Would The Nigerwife have been published without the breakout success of Gone Girl many years before? Perhaps? But I suspect its wide readership and current success is also due to the fact that this is a genre that many readers (myself included) now reach for on a regular basis.

Plot Summary

Told in two alternative perspectives, the ‘before’ sections are told in Nicole’s voice, leading up to her disappearance. She lives what appears to be the perfect life; she is beautiful, the mother of two boys, and the wife of a rich and handsome man. She’s also part of a close-knit group of friends called “The Nigerwives” which are all women married to wealthy men who moved to Lagos from elsewhere, helping each other to adjust to this new life and the cultural expectations that come along with it. Nicole moved from the UK and a much more challenging life, she had very little money, and some difficult family history, so she jumped at the chance for a new life in Lagos when it was offered to her. The ‘after’ sections are told in her Aunt Claudine’s voice, who has flown to Lagos after learning of Nicole’s disappearance. Claudine raised Nicole, and is understandably concerned when she suspects that Nicole’s new family (her in-laws and her husband) don’t seem as distraught as they should be over this upsetting mystery. Once there, Claudine is off put by the opulence of their family compound, but even more so by the cold nature in which she is handled by the household staff and family. Not one to be pushed around, Claudine vows to find out what happened, even if she risks putting herself in danger while investigating.

My Thoughts

Books that feature rich, beautiful people always seem to sell better. If we are living in a fantasy fiction world, why not make it an exciting one where the stakes seem higher? That way, when the characters inevitably falter or fail, the fall is that much longer to the bottom. Keeping up appearances also acts as a great motive for doing despicable things, so before we’ve even met each suspect, there are already suspicions floating around every character. Although this book may follow a few formulaic plot points consistent to this genre, the Lagos setting adds an element of unexpected beauty and danger. Its depicted as an exotic place, but one with many contradictions as well. Both Nicole and Claudine feel ‘new’ to it, struggling to adjust to the weather, the expectations around the wealth divisions, and the constant striving for more. It intoxicates some, while repulsing others. The very first page begins with Nicole observing a floating dead body in the lagoon in front of their house, her husband scoffing at the idea they call the police: “In this Nigeria?” (p.2 of advanced reading copy) he says. Within the first two pages we as readers must adjust to the fact that the rules are different there.

The story is well plotted and paced, moving along at the perfect speed to keep me invested, but not too fast that it loses credibility. Claudine’s character adds a tiny bit of humor, her reactions to the stuffy in-laws are priceless. Even within the first few pages of her first chapter, she gets on a plane and learns there is a turbulence ahead, muttering to herself “Lord have mercy” and I laughed out loud because its the exact thing I tell myself when I learn of turbulence ahead too. Even as likeable as she is, she has skeletons in her closet, just like every other character in this book, which complicates the plot and propels the action forward, making this the perfect quick read. I found myself distracted by everyone’s secrets, instead wanting to just discover who was going to come clean, and which secrets were big enough to keep hidden. We learn that not all the secrets were bad, some were kept hidden to protect others, and even worse than uncovering the truth about hidden deeds is uncovering truths about people’s true nature instead.

You’ll get what you expect out of this book; an engrossing read that will shock and delight you, that’s quick to get through, and ideal for reading on your upcoming summer vacation. Whether you’re in the backyard or on a beach, just make sure you are in the sun so you can imagine yourself under a palm tree in Lagos instead.

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