Authors: Dr. Kosi J. Avotri and Nella P. Avotri
The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Interview With The Authors CLICK HERE
Set in the Volta Region of Ghana, Pediatrician Kosi J. Avotri and his wife Nella P. Avotri’s novel, Child of Pologamy makes excellent use of loosely linked tales to help us better understand the mores, customs and traditions of Ghanaians living in this corner of the globe.
Each chapter of the novel focuses on different aspects of daily life in a tiny village as experienced and narrated by three principal characters: Mina, one of the wives of a polygamist relationship, her father Mededu and her daughter, Safia.
The novel opens with the application of customary law pertaining to the trial of Mededu, chief of the town of Sakuma. Accused of a criminal act by his rival Ketor, first in line to become chief, if Mededu’s rule is ended, the latter is required to place his dominant hand in a pot of boiling palm oil to prove his innocence. If guilty, he would suffer horrible burns or even death. Fortunately, Mededu is found innocent and his accuser is required to pay a fine for a false accusation.
The tricky relationship between Mina and Mededu are particularly intriguing, as it pertains to the pros and cons of conversion to Christianity. Mina fails to understand why her father is inflexible in not wishing to follow her lead and why he desires to maintain his traditional religion, worshipping the guardian spirits and ancestors. Mededu maintains that if he did convert the grandfathers would not be pleased, and to support his argument he relates an experience he had when he was saved by the ancestors.
The practice of polygamy that is governed by classical or customary law is explored and examined with great sensitivity. This is prevalent in the conversation between Safia and her brother Seyo, when the former questions the latter as to how their father could live with two wives. According to Seyo, the arrangement is quite simple, “he spent one week with one wife and the next week with the other.” When Safia questions her mother why she married Papa, when she knew he already had a wife, Mina reply is “it is common for a man to marry more than one woman if he is capable of taking care of them.”
The authors tackle other difficult issues such as the treatment of mental illness, incest, the acceptance of the Catholic Church of polygamous families, while at the same time preventing them from fully participating, suicide, education, relations among siblings of a polygamous marriage, and taboos.
This is a compelling book that never gets strident, as the authors admirably succeed in laying out the information clearly and concisely pertaining to many serious topics dealing with Ghanaian culture that to most of us are foreign, and perhaps even mind boggling to some.