cover image The Three of Us

The Three of Us

Ore Agbaje-Williams. Putnam, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-54071-8

In Agbaje-Williams’s intoxicating debut, a Nigerian housewife’s protective husband and freewheeling best friend vie for her loyalty and affection over the course of a single day. The unnamed wife grapples with the prospect of pregnancy, which she sees as a “ritual performed out of responsibility rather than desire.” Her dilemma is complicated by a visit from her childhood best friend, Temi. Back in college, the self-seeking and brash Temi coaxed her friend out of her shell of reticence and fear, but in the meantime her conservative husband, also unnamed, has led her into a traditional gender role. Temi fears her friend is regressing into a “woman who is silent and subservient,” and the husband, of course, has grown tired of Temi’s presence and wants to start a family. The narrative unfolds as a triptych, each character helming a section from their point of view to wondrous and wearying effects as they retell and relitigate the same events. There’s not much of a plot, though it’s delicious to watch the characters’ long-fermenting tensions come to the fore. It lands as a discerning debut from an author who knows a thing or two (or three) about the ever-shifting dynamics of intimacy. (May)