Published by Simon and Schuster on 11/1/2007
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In the middle of a flight to Helsinki, en route to an international literary celebration to honor her husband, Joan Castleman decides she is going to end her marriage. Since their meeting at Smith College decades earlier, Joan has put aside her own literary ambitions to play the role of supportive wife and mother with little recognition and increasing resentment. Flashing back through their romance, marriage and Joseph’s career, Joan validates her decision before reaching her final, shocking breaking point.
I fell in love with Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings early last year and it spent the rest of 2013 planted firmly near the top of my favorites. As much as I wanted to read Wolitzer’s other work, I had a hard time believing it could be as good as what I had already experienced. But from the first sentence of The Wife I knew I had been wrong.
As she demonstrated in The Interestings, Wolitzer has an unbelievable ability to grab readers by their memories, experiences or generalizations and get them nodding in awe. In just the first page of The Wife, she not only creates a perfect portrait of Joan’s husband Joseph, but transports readers to the claustrophobic cabin of the plane the couple is flying in. And that brilliant work continues throughout the book, backward through their relationship and forward to the novel’s twist.
Though I’m still torn over which I enjoyed more, comparing The Wife and The Interestings only highlights Meg Wolitzer’s talents. She can condense a life into 200 pages just as easily as she can sprawl over 500 without losing her signature touch. If you have yet to take a leap into her work, take your pick and jump.
“In her worldview, bad marriages were simply terminated, like unwanted pregnancies. She knew nothing about this subculture of women who stayed, women who couldn’t logically explain their allegiances, who held tight because it was the thing they felt most comfortable doing, the thing they actually liked. She didn’t understand the luxury of the familiar, the known: the same hump of back poking up under the cover in bed, the hair tufting in the ear. The husband.”