01 Aug / The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History by Aida Edemariam [in Library Journal]
Within the first few minutes, the chameleonic Adjoa Andoh quickly grabs listeners’ attention with the high-pitched ululating trilling that will repeat throughout the almost 10 hours of narration here. Ethiopian Canadian journalist Edemariam couldn’t have found a better narrator to embody her late nonagenarian grandmother, through whose long life Edemariam also presents the multilayered history of 20th-century Ethiopia.
Married at age 8 to a 30-year-old priest with poetic tendencies, Yètèmegn bears witness to almost a century of jarring events, the private and public inextricably linked. The children she bears and those she loses, her husband’s rise to power and his imprisonment, her struggle to keep her family’s lands, her determination to raise and educate her surviving children dovetail with the tumultuous, often violent decades of Ethiopia’s imperial rule, Italy’s invasion, famine, coup d’état, dictatorship, and revolution. Where the text occasionally lags with unnecessary detail and disjointed digression, Andoh deftly commands the narration with an authority clearly reflective of Yètèmegn’s own storytelling prowess.
Verdict: For cosmopolitan audiences in search of intriguing, historically linked true stories, look to this Wife’s Tale both to entertain and enlighten.