"The Nigerwife," the debut novel from international journalist and playwright Vanessa Walters, is our "GMA" Book Club pick for May.
For fans of "My Sister, the Serial Killer" and "The Last Thing He Told Me," this twisted novel centers around a young woman who vanishes from her glamorous life in Lagos, Nigeria, and her estranged aunt who will stop at nothing to find the truth.
Follow Auntie Claudine in "The Nigerwife" as she starts to dig into her missing niece's "perfect life," where she uncovers "dark secrets, isolation, and even violence," according to the book's publisher.
"The Nigerwife" examines family bonds, the consequences of keeping secrets and whether one can truly leave their past behind.
Read an excerpt below and get a copy of the book here.
'The Nigerwife' by Vanessa Walters
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This twisted novel centers around a young woman who vanishes from her glamorous life in Lagos, Nigeria, and her estranged aunt who will stop at nothing to find the truth.
This month, we are also teaming up with Little Free Library to give out free copies in Times Square and at 150 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Since 2009, more than 300 million books have been shared in Little Free Libraries across the world. Click here to find a copy of "The Nigerwife" at a Little Free Library location near you.
Read along with us and join the conversation all month long on our Instagram account -- GMA Book Club and #GMABookClub.
THE LAST upload had been six months ago, in January. Nicole had posted only one photo of her, Tonye, and their two little sons next to a Batman-themed birthday cake outside in the garden. She looked very pretty posing in a white summer dress, Tonye's arm around her. Claudine traced their smiles with her finger.
"Phone off now, please!" The air hostess waited impatiently in the aisle until Claudine pressed the power button and the screen went dark.
Claudine settled back in her window seat and watched the Heathrow tarmac fall away. Slanted raindrops lashed the glass. Rain, rain, go away. She wouldn't miss the awful British summer. A thundering went through the aircraft, then a billowing sheet of cloud enveloped them, followed by a great calm and relief that it was too late to change her mind.
Through the intercom came the pilot's announcement that the flight would be six hours to Lagos, arriving around 6 p.m. local time. The weather would be 75 degrees Fahrenheit at their destination and sunny. She hoped she wouldn't get to the house too late to ask questions. She didn't want to have to wait until tomorrow. Another night with Nicole still missing, no word on whether she was alive or dead, was bad enough. But at least Claudine would be there. Waiting for news thousands of miles away back in London, powerless to help, unable to do anything but watch the flies creep from one end of the window to the other, had been unbearable.
Penny hadn't thought Claudine should go to Nigeria to find out what had happened. "This ain't on you, Claud," her sister had said. "You might've raised her, but you and Nicole haven't been close for years. Why go looking for someone who left and didn't look back?" Penny's question was fair. When Claudine didn't respond, she added, "It's not safe in Nigeria. Isn't there a war going on there with the Muslims? Boko -- Boko something? They kidnapped all those girls. Hundreds of them. And I saw this program on BBC Two -- Welcome to Lagos, it was called -- where everyone lived on a rubbish dump. Everyone. They lived on it. The rubbish! How you supposed to find Nicole in a place like that? Bet Tonye forced her to move there."
Here we go again with the Nigeria-bashing convention, Claudine had thought. Never mind Nicole's husband and picture-perfect life. Being happy for someone was too much to ask in their family, so they had to peck it apart at every opportunity, going on about Nigeria as if Jamaica didn't have any poverty or corruption. What did they know about it? If you believed the pictures posted on social media, Nicole lived in a mansion by the water with a beautiful garden and a swimming pool. She had expensive clothes, even those shoes with red bottoms. She enjoyed parties and holidays, surrounded herself with rich friends.
But Claudine had learned not to get into it with Penny, whose hindsight was as bad as her foresight, always coming up with ridiculous revelations about things that happened years ago, like her insistence that her name was actually Pauletta, but Mummy had changed it to Penny on account of her being brown like a penny. That she knew there was something wrong with Len. And now, that Nicole had been forced to move to Nigeria. Honestly, you couldn't make up half of what came out of Penny's mouth.
Funny, Penny had been the first to cry when Claudine relayed the news about Nicole's disappearance, that she had gone on a boat trip in Lagos and hadn't come back. That there had been no sign of her since, that Tonye thought it was possible she had drowned in the lagoon. Claudine hadn't cried. She wasn't a crier. What good would crying do anyway? She had simply watched Mummy, Penny, and Michael -- what was left of the Roberts family in the UK after almost fifty years -- carrying on for Jesus as if she'd announced Nicole was dead. A Punch and Judy puppet show in the simple dining room of their nondescript semi with double-glazed windows in the middle of a street one wouldn't remember in deepest, darkest South London. That's how it went with them. Penny, crying for attention; Michael, overexcited, cursing at the moon; Mummy, striking her chest with her fist, calling on God with all his known aliases, meantime her eyes probably drier than concrete. None of it meant a damn thing. If Nicole was dead, all the howling in the world wouldn't bring her back.
Claudine's coworkers at Fashion Maxx were less fussed about her going to Nigeria. They helped her find some things she might need on the trip. A strong cross-body handbag with hidden inner pockets so she couldn't easily be pickpocketed. Some running shoes for all the walking she would have to do, and plenty of T-shirts. It was bound to be very hot.
"They say the sky's much bigger over in Africa," said one coworker, who had never left the UK due to a fear of flying and her dislike of the French. Everything she knew about the world came from the Pick Me Up! magazines she read on her lunch breaks. Claudine hadn't told them the full story, only that she urgently had to visit her niece, who had married a Nigerian man and was living out there. Another coworker's advice was more practical. She'd spent her childhood in Nigeria but had been wrestling with mystery immigration problems ever since her arrival in the UK and couldn't go back. "You'll be fine," she had said. "Just stick with the people you know."
That could be a problem.
THE NIGERWIFE by Vanessa Walters | On sale: May 2, 2023 | Atria Books, 320 pages | Hardcover ISBN: 9781668011089, $27.99 eBook ISBN: 9781668011102, $14.99