A common denominator among readers of Adorah Nworah’s House Woman would be that the narrative and arc of the story are surprising, especially if all the reader has to go by is the blurb. The title does not give out much apart from the fact that you know the tale is about some domestic issue with a woman at the centre of it. House Woman is an unusual domestic thriller with some unusual twists and an arranged marriage at the core of the plot. Ikemefuna is put on a plane from Lagos to Sugar Land, Texas. She is off to meet her husband, Nna. A husband she has never met nor spoken to. As arranged marriages go, that is pretty odd. She arrives in Texas, at the home of her parents-in-law and is suddenly held hostage. She suddenly has no agency not just over her movement but also over her body. The twists in the plot are numerous and each turn attempts to shed some light on her past in a bid to make sense of her present. Every anecdote retold about her past and those of her parents and in-laws shed more light on her captivity and why Nna looked so much like her mother (or the woman she assumed to be her mother).

House Woman is a slow burner and its prose is a bit tiring as the author often over-elaborates the description of places and things. Additionally, how many times should one hear about Nna’s smelly genitals? For a thriller, there were aspects of the story that were largely implausible; Ikemefuna’s inability to escape from the house throughout her stay and Nna’s inability to take his new spouse out for something as small as an ice cream is almost unbelievable. It is very hard to imagine that there was no option for Ikemefuna to leave the house for an adult who was not physically restrained in any way. A valid counterview is that the author wanted to highlight how much of Ikemefuna’s agency was stripped away from her. How the women in her life’s story failed her and the men who played supporting cast were too docile to intervene. House Woman is full of awful characters. Almost all of them are without redeeming features. Besides Ikemefuna, the only other person who aroused some empathy is Adina. The length that women go in a bid to overcome the shame of barrenness in Nigeria is laid bare as Adina falls for Agbala’s dubious spirituality. House Woman is a decent read and while not an exceptional debut, it is a decent thriller with enough twists to keep the reader longing for the next page.

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