The Nigerwife: A Novel
by Vanessa Walters

Published: 2023-05-02T00:0
Hardcover : 320 pages
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“White Lotus meets Big Little Lies” (Good Morning America) in this twisty and electrifying debut novel about a young woman who goes missing in Lagos, Nigeria, and her estranged auntie who will stop at nothing to find the truth behind her ...

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“White Lotus meets Big Little Lies” (Good Morning America) in this twisty and electrifying debut novel about a young woman who goes missing in Lagos, Nigeria, and her estranged auntie who will stop at nothing to find the truth behind her disappearance.

Nicole Oruwari has the perfect life: a hand­some husband; a palatial house in the heart of glittering Lagos, Nigeria; and a glamorous group of friends. She left gloomy London and a troubled family past behind for sunny, moneyed Lagos, becoming part of the Nigerwives—a com­munity of foreign women married to Nigerian men.

But when Nicole disappears without a trace after a boat trip, the cracks in her so-called perfect life start to show. As the investigation turns up nothing but dead ends, her auntie Claudine decides to take matters into her own hands. Armed with only a cell phone and a plane ticket to Nigeria, she digs into her niece’s life and uncov­ers a hidden side filled with dark secrets, isolation, and even violence. But the more she discovers about Nicole, the more Claudine’s own buried history threatens to come to light.

An inventively told and keenly observant thriller where nothing is as it seems, The Nigerwife offers a razor-sharp look at the bonds of family, the echoing consequences of secrets, and whether we can ever truly outrun our past.

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Discussion Questions

From the publisher - added by Pauline

1. In the prologue, there is a clear contrast between Nicole’s home and the surrounding environment (the lagoon). Discuss how this foreshadows the importance of how appearances can differ from reality throughout the book.

2. Throughout the book, Tonye comes across as detached and threatening. Considering the other things his family is dealing with after Nicole’s disappearance, would you consider his actions normal, reasonable, or acceptable?

3. The Oruwaris keep the details of Nicole’s disappearance a secret to avoid social ramifications, thus hindering the investigation’s progress. How do you think class comes into play during the search for Nicole? Discuss the pros and cons associated with making the news public. Do you agree or disagree with the family’s choice? Claudine’s?

4. After an argument with Tonye, Claudine says she “let [Nicole] down.” Having learned about Claudine and Nicole’s past with Len, do you think her search for Nicole is motivated by guilt, love, or a mixture of both?

5. Nicole repeatedly expresses that no one cares about what she does and that she could spend the whole day in her pajamas. Do you think the Oruwaris ever liked Nicole? How do you think the Oruwaris would’ve handled the investigation (or lack thereof) into her disappearance if Claudine hadn’t shown up?

6. In chapter 14, we see a rare moment of solidarity between Nicole and the women of the Oruwari clan, when Mother-in-Law defends Nicole having a job and women needing things for themselves. What does this say about the hierarchies at play?

7. In chapter twenty, Nicole refers to Bilal as “just a driver.” Do you think Nicole, or anybody in the Oruwari house, treats the staff humanely? Discuss how a difference in the treatment of the staff could have prevented what happened to Nicole?

8. What do the Nigerwives’ reactions to the news that Nicole is missing say about their organization and what’s important to them?

9. Do you think Elias has unrealistic expectations of Nicole and their relationship? Do you feel he is using her the same way she is using him?

10. Chapter 13 opens, “Penny was laughing as she answered the phone.” Discuss the tensions prevalent in Nicole’s family, their roots, and the lasting effects on their relationships.

11. Although she was estranged from her niece, Claudine still travels all the way to Nigeria to look for Nicole, while the rest of her family stays in London. What does this say about the true strength of their relationship?

12. Nicole’s loss of self-identity after becoming a mother is very important to the story. Discuss the ways in which her affair with Elias helps her rediscover who she is. Do you think there is anything else Nicole could have done to find herself? Would things be different if she’d had the affair with Yohanna?

13. Kemi acts as Nicole’s voice of reason. After discovering that Kemi had been sleeping with Tonye, do you think she had ulterior motives when inviting Nicole on the boat?

14. Nicole was planning on going home, and she was contemplating contacting Claudine. What does this say about her personal growth during the affair?

15. Discuss the parallels between what Claudine observed at the Mobee Royal Family Original Slave Relics Museum and the epilogue. Discuss how you might continue the story line.

Enhance Your Book Club

1. The short film Honeymoon, by award-winning director Amy Aniobi, explores a modern-day Nigerian couple’s first awkward day of marriage. Consider watching this with your group, and compare the themes about marriage in the film to those in the novel.

2. There are plenty of Nigerian/West African neighborhoods across the United States. See if there are any near you and explore, or find a Nigerian restaurant in your area and try the cuisine!

3. A body floats ignored in the lagoon at the start of the novel, and the same situation occurs several times throughout the book; there's a parallel in the way people treat the environment and how they treat each other. The village community that recycles the trash saves Nicole from drowning in the end. Consider organizing a shoreside cleanup at your nearest beach, pond, river, or lake.

4. Claudine is often reminded that she does not understand Nigerian culture and traditions. Her interference threatens the Oruwaris plans and life, specifically the upcoming wedding. In your reading group, compare the dynamics of the traditional Oruwari marriage versus traditional Western marriages.

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