Friday, February 19, 2010

The Wife's Tale : a review

On the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, Jimmy Gooch leaves his wife. Mary doesn’t have a whole lot of self-respect and has been waiting for this day since they met. She has had a lifelong struggle with with her seemingly insatiable hunger, her self-esteem, and her desire for self-acceptance. When her husband leaves her, she is at her heaviest and has spent years isolating herself from others and passing up opportunities for travel and other pleasures because she is uncomfortable with how she looks and never, ever has anything appropriate to wear. But she is not content to stay at home and wait to see if Jimmy ever comes back. Mary embarks on a trip from her small town in Leaford, Ontario all the way to California.

After reading The Girls, I was eager to pick up Lansens’ newest book. It unfortunately sports one of the cliched woman’s-legs covers, which has been so overdone at this point that it’s laughable. Even more so for this book, because the main character is morbidly obese. These are not the legs of an obese woman. Who the hell designed this cover, and did they know anything about the book? But I digress. (Not surprisingly, this is apparently just the U.S. cover – the other versions are shown here.)

Mary Gooch is certainly less than perfect, and sprinkled through the novel are illustrations of ways in which she did not help her marriage at all. She spends a lot of time waiting in this novel, during which she thinks back to different parts of her life. It is very memory-heavy, and those memories sometimes seem more important than what is going on at present. Despite her many imperfections, I rooted for her. And this is certainly a novel of growth, in which she is forced outside of her comfort zone and realizes how much she has been missing. I don’t think I liked it as much as The Girls, but I was definitely content to spend every spare moment reading it.

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