The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam

The subject of this book, Yetemegnu, was the author’s grandmother.  She was born in 1916 and died in 2013 and she lived her whole life in Ethiopia.  She was married very young.  She had 10 pregnancies, although only seven children survived to adulthood.  Her husband was a higher ranking churchman (like a bishop?).  As a young wife she followed a traditional role, with her main activities being cooking, overseeing the household and caring for the children.  Then came periods of political turmoil.  World War II occurred.  Her husband was imprisoned and eventually died.  She lost her lands which had supplied food as well as income.  So she went to the seat of government to petition to regain what she had lost.  She still had 7 children and a household to support and she wanted to clear her husbands name.  Eventually she was successful.  Later, the emperor, Haile Selassie, was overthrown and there was a Communist revolution.


This is not a book in the Western style.  The author does not try to analyze her grandmother’s character or develop a main theme.  Rather it is a history; it tells about what happened in her grandmother’s lifetime.  And it gives a feeling or an impression of the place and time and how people lived.  It is a gripping story and gives us an insight into a world we probably aren’t familiar with.


1. What were Yetemegnu’s early years of marriage like?


2. How did Yetemegnu and other Ethiopian women react to abuse by their husbands?


3. What role did fatalism play in her life?


4. What role did religion play on her life?


5. What was her legacy?

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