Title: The Wife's Tale
Author: Lori Lansens
Source: Library Thing Early Reviewers program
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "Alone in the evenings, when the light had drained from the slate roof of her small rural home, and when her husband was working late, Mary Gooch would perform a striptease for the stars at the open bedroom window: shifting out of rumpled bottoms, slipping off blousy top, liberating breasts, peeling panties, her creamy flesh spilling forth until she was completely, exquisitely nude."
Summary (From book flap):
On the eve of their silver anniversary, Mary Gooch is waiting for her husband, Jimmy -- still every inch the handsome star athlete he was in high school -- to come home. As night turns to day, it becomes frighteningly clear to Mary that he is gone. Through the years, disappointment and worry have brought Mary's life to a standstill, and she has let her universe shrink to the well-worn path from her bedroom to the refrigerator. But her husband's disappearance startles her out of her inertia, and she begins a desperate search.
She boards a plane for the first time in her life and flies across the country to find her lost husband. So used to hiding from the world, Mary learns that in the bright sun and broad vistas of California, she is forced to look up from the pavement. And what she discovers fills her with an inner strength she's never felt before: perfect strangers who come to her rescue, an aging, sometimes hostile mother-in-law who needs her help, friends who enjoy her company. And through it all, Mary not only finds kindred spirits, but reunites with a more intimate stranger no longer sequestered by fear and habit: herself.
My Two Cents:
At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book. I'm not usually a big fan of books that focus largely on one characteristic of a character -- In this case, Mary's weight -- because it almost seems to reduce that character to a stereotype. With Mary, however, it soon becomes obvious that her weight is the outgrowth and cause of a lot of other factors in her life.
I've never had an experience with Lansens' work in the past, but I think I'll seek out her other novel. Her writing is smooth and easy to read. This book flows really well. I would sit down to read and look up after another 50 pages, surprised at how quickly the pages flew by.
I really liked Mary as a character. She is someone who, in the beginning of the book, clearly needs a change. It takes one major event to throw her out of her usual life, but she does a total 180 and becomes a whole new person. She steps outside herself and her own problems to help others, including her often abrasive mother-in-law and a woman she meets in a parking lot. I cheered for Mary through the whole book.
Lansens is great at rendering a lot of different people vividly. She has the ability to present an Israeli immigrant who drives a limousine with the same depth that she shows us Mary, and we get the same sense of a kindly bank teller that we do of Mary's husband. The minor characters are just as memorable as the major characters.
If you like stories with characters who make great changes in their lives or who get through a major crisis, or if you're a fan of non-traditional women's fiction (Is that even a category?), this book's for you.