Monday, August 10, 2009

Four Wives; Wendy Walker

Ms. Walker is a new to me author published by St. Martin's Griffin. Full disclosure: I received this title as an ARC from Phenix Publicity for the purpose of this review. This title sparked much conversation between the Hubby and myself, with different reactions from both of us. It would be a fabulous title for a book discussion group.

This is a story of four women who start off the story playing in the shallow end of life's pool and end up in the deep end. How they went from shallow to deep and how they rescued themselves (most of them anyway) and each other. Superficially Four Wives is centralized around planning a charity fundraiser. However, IMO Four Wives is actually a character study of these women, their marriages & the superficiality that infects them all to one degree or another.

There is Janie the Barbie wife, who has all of the fabulous and perfect Barbie accoutrements (house, kids, car, trainer, servants, plastic surgery, husband), except maybe she doesn't love her husband anymore and sex with him is icky now. Ooops. Then there's Marie, a Harvard trained lawyer who gave up an exciting & thriving career in New York City to live the suburban lifestyle she was supposed to want. Poor Marie didn't realize just how much suburban living would suck the vitality out of her. Love is the doctor's wife, but she's too stressed, too anxious, too guilt ridden to truly enjoy her children, her husband or the storybook life she's created. But what is she hiding? Last is Gayle, the old line New York family member, wealthy in her own right. She's everyone's guiding light. Gayle is way too much of a control freak, way too reserved to throw her social weight and influence around too much. So- what is Gayle keeping at bay with all of those pills she takes?

These women, these characters, provoked very strong reactions. The conversations between Hubby and I were animated and thought provoking. Ms. Walker paints true to life people and places them in a complex social and moral situation and then stirs the pot, leaving the reader to eagerly devour the pages wondering just how will everything fall into place at the end. The dynamic of one woman who makes a moral judgement that may have serious repercussions throughout her life is placed alongside another woman who is so self absorbed that she doesn't consider anything other than what she wants and how to get it. Alternatively there are women who play out life scripts written for them when they were children. Which ones of these ladies will triumph?

One quote stood out for me at the end, a quote that I think is representative of the novel as a whole. In my book it's on page 353:

"She had done a lot of thinking about the state of affairs between men and women and the attempts they made to share one life, one home. Was there ever really harmony without one person's submission?"

All I can say is wow. Four Wives is wonderful: thought provoking, conversation stirring, exciting. My hubby has borrowed it and plans to read it. If he wants to write a review I will post it and link the two reviews. Ms. Walker has another book out titled Social Lives which comes out September 1st. Run out and buy or borrow Four Wives, you won't be sorry.

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