The Three of Us, Ore Agbaje-Williams's knockout debut novel about the hazards and self-destructive nature of spousal compromise, presents a three-part narrative featuring a wife, a husband, and a best friend--all of whom make confessions with combustive results. Marriage liberated the unnamed wife of this story from her controlling Nigerian parents, but she and her best friend, Temi, had once vowed to stay single. "Until Temi," she says, "I didn't know it was even possible to decide things for myself." Now, she and her husband, also an unnamed Nigerian, are trying to conceive a child, although she doesn't want children. He seeks not happiness, which he believes unattainable, but contentment--"we are in it for the long haul"--and describes over multiple pages how he pictured their life. He comes home, however, to find Temi visiting, a woman who causes him to "look twice" at his wife. Temi stays for dinner, a bulwark against her friend's deterioration into someone unrecognizable. "What had happened to our belief that marriage was a system designed to give women yet another role under the guise of love, free will, and other temporary emotions?" Temi wonders.
The three drink and talk, each propulsive moment compounding the next, until the punctures in the façade of marital amicability meet in one gaping chasm between the spouses. Fine details--the wife using her foot to hold the handheld vacuum to avoid stooping over--suffuse love and life into a hilarious, clever and incisive narrative of admirable and ugly truths. The Three of Us is a simmering tempest of clashing expectations, values and desires. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer