Book Review: The Association of Foreign Spouses by Marilyn Heward Mills

Rating: 4/5

From the perspective of a woman, getting married and moving into her husband’s home, adopting her husband’s family, and living away from her own parents is tough in itself. When the marriage brings together diverse cultures, it becomes doubly difficult for her to adjust to the alien environment while preventing misunderstandings and avoiding giving offence. That’s just what happens when the very British Eva marries the solid Ghanian Alfred, charmed by his stories of his motherland. When she actually steps into her new home, reality hits hard.

It doesn’t help that she has many differences of opinion with her mother-in-law who does not approve of her British daughter-in-law and finds her distant, rude, and strange. Things become worse when Alfred has a protracted affair, which results in a child. Quite understandably, Eva is not willing to have any of it and fails to understand why her mother-in-law is preaching tolerance. (Eva’s mother-in-law is preoccupied with thoughts of keeping the family together, even if it isn’t exactly her notion of the ideal family.)

On the other hand, Eva’s friends–who also hail from foreign countries and have married into Ghana–are fighting battles of their own. Dahlia has endured years of domestic violence while keeping up a brave, smiling front in public. It is thrilling to read how the women get together to plot her escape and heartbreaking to see how the plan is thwarted by her monster of a husband. (Things have a happy ending to this story, though!).

Yelena, from Russia, struggles to be recognized as a legal Ghanian wife and win the approval of her (already married) husband’s family. Abandoned during pregnancy by her husband, Yelena runs her own salon in Ghana and fights for her marital rights every day on foreign soil. The showdown between Yelena and her husband’s first wife is uncomfortable to read but you can help but feel for both women–they have been wronged by the same man.

Margrit appears to have the ideal life, living in quiet satisfaction with her husband and dog until one day, he is snatched away by Ghanian terrorists and her house is destroyed.

Mills has penned such a delightful study of human emotions and behavior under stress, about women rallying together to help each other in times of distress, about pulling each other up when they’re ready to collapse. Beautiful!

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