The primary female character of the novel. Esi is a strong, well-educated, and independent woman who, at the start of the novel, lives with her husband, Oko, and their daughter, Ogyaanowa. Esi works at the Department of Urban Statistics and often brings her work home with her. After being raped by her husband, Esi decides to seek a divorce. She wants to live an independent life in which she prioritizes her career and is free from the traditional boundaries imposed by marriage. When she falls in love with Ali Kondey and agrees to become his second wife, she thinks she may have found the perfect arrangement. However, her marriage to Ali leaves her feeling terribly alone and isolated.
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Esi’s second husband and the managing director of Linga HideAway Travel. Ali is a very handsome and well-educated man. The son of a traveling, polygamist father, Ali is the embodiment of a cosmopolitan man. He happily claims several different nationalities as his own, and he spends much of his life traveling from one part of the world to another. He grows up and marries his childhood friend and first love, Fusena. Drawn to Esi’s beauty and independence, he takes her as a second wife but quickly begins to spend less and less time with her. Ali is a self-absorbed man who tries to use his money to placate Esi and his wife. He is, above all, a traveler—a man who spends his life moving from one woman and destination to the next. Ali continues his multiple affairs throughout his marriage to Esi.
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Esi’s first husband. Oko, despite his differences and difficulties with Esi, continues to love her very deeply. Raised in a traditional household, he tries to get Esi to adapt to a more standard form of marriage. He wants to have another child, and he wants to spend more time with his wife, who is constantly traveling or working. His desire for Esi to be a traditional wife eventually causes him to rape her, which leads to their divorce. He never fully accepts their divorce, even though he takes on a new young wife given to him by his mother. He becomes increasingly bitter toward Esi and her remarriage to Ali, an emotion that culminates in his violent confrontation with Esi at her house.
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The daughter of Esi and Oko. As a young child, Ogyaanowa is caught in the middle of her parents’ frequent fights and eventual divorce. These experiences will clearly haunt her later in life. She is shuffled back and forth between her parents, but she is primarily raised by her father and her father’s mother. Although she loves her mother, she is clearly much more comfortable spending time at her grandmother’s house than in the empty home where her mother lives.
Esi’s best friend. Opokuya is a dedicated wife and a loving mother. She works long hours as a nurse while also raising a family. She constantly fights with her husband over control of their car. During Esi’s crises, she always turns to Opokuya for love, support, and understanding. Compared to Esi, Opokuya is a much more traditional female figure. Both at work and at home, Opokuya is a constant source of support and compassion—a woman who frequently sacrifices her own needs for others’.
Opokuya’s husband. Kubi is a slightly arrogant and self-absorbed. He constantly controls the car, despite his wife’s legitimate need for it. He is friends with Oko, and as such, is hostile toward Esi following her divorce. At the end of the novel, he attempts to sleep with Esi, which again reveals his self-centered nature. Like Oko, Kubi is representative of a traditional patriarchal figure. His arrogance and concern only for himself causes him to slight his wife and family.
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Ali’s first wife. Fusena has known Ali since they were young children. Following her marriage to Ali and the birth of her first child, Fusena abandons her career and education. She longs to finish school and get her degree but is constantly held back by Ali, who insists that he can earn enough money to support the family. She tries to resist Ali’s desire for a second marriage but is eventually coaxed into it by the elder women of Ali’s family. She is resentful of the fact that Ali has chosen a woman with a university degree to be his second wife, given that he prevented her from completing her degree. She is a somewhat tragic figure in that she has sacrificed her independence and career for a husband who not only takes a second wife but also continues to have multiple affairs with numerous other women.
The sister of Ali’s father. Following the death of Ali’s mother, Mma Danjuma raises Ali as her own son. She advocates for him to be educated in the French schools and plays a critical role in arranging Ali’s marriage to Fusena. Although she is initially resistant to Ali taking Esi as a second wife, she is eventually able to accept Esi (to a limited degree).
Musa Musa (Ali Baba)
Ali Kondey’s father. Musa Musa spent his life acquiring wealth and traveling throughout the continent. He has a fondness for young women and is continually acquiring new wives, along with his artifacts. Much like his son, he is an arrogant man who believes at least partially in his own immortality. For Musa Musa, the entire world can either be purchased or seduced by him.
Esi’s grandmother. Nana is a very traditional woman who has a hard time accepting her daughter’s decision to divorce Oko, whom she views as a respectable and loving husband.