The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam

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This month's book is 'The Wife's Tale' by Aida Edemariam.

"One remarkable woman--caught in the tumult of an extraordinary century in Ethiopia's history. Told by her granddaughter, Canadian journalist Aida Edemariam, Yetemegnu's story is of courage, struggle and survival. The Wife's Tale has the sweep and lyrical power that captivated readers of Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone, and of Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family. Born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar in about 1916, and a child bride at eight years old, Aida Edemariam's grandmother once stood, shaking, as fascists searched her home for guns she knew were there; in the late 1930s and early 1940s she fled both Italian and Allied bombardment. When her husband was imprisoned, in the 1950s, Yetemegnu--a woman who had hardly left her own compound for three decades--managed to gain audiences with Emperor Haile Selassie I in Addis Ababa, to argue for justice, for revenge, and for the futures of her seven children. Widowed, she fought for thirteen years through courts unaccustomed to a woman determined to defend her assets. A feudal landlord herself, she felt the first tremors of the coming revolution, then, in the early 1970s, watched it burst into flower: night after night she listened, praying desperately, to the firing squads of the Red Terror doing their work next door, and endured yet more soldiers tramping through her home. In her sixties she learned to read, and eventually made a longed-for pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Told from Yetemegnu's own point of view, The Wife's Tale features a rich cast of characters--emperors and empresses, archbishops and slaves, priests and scholars, monks and nuns, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents. But above all, there is Yetemegnu herself, grand and haughty and sometimes difficult but also vulnerable and incredibly generous and who, despite everything--the toil, the deaths, the cruelties and the many, many tears--retains an infectious sense of mischief and joy.

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