Meg Wolitzer’s novel, The Wife, is a book that every wife should read. No, every husband should read. No, every female writer should read. No, every writer should read. NO, every PERSON who has ever been in a relationship with anyone should read.
At its core this is a book about relationships–the barters we make, the deals we strike, the things we give up, the things we gain. It is also about how we perceive ourselves in these relationships–happy/unhappy, innocent/guilty, a victim/a victimizer.
The wife in this story is Joan, who is married to a famous and successful writer named Joe, who has just won the biggest award of his life. They have been together for decades and have three children and an outwardly happy and satisfying life.
But what seethes below the surface are the years of discontent and misuse. Joan would have you believe that she has been the victim all along but as you read her story, you start to see that it is impossible to believe her entirely–she is, after all, a great writer herself. A storyteller among storytellers–she knows how to sift the truth so that it comes out one way or another. She knows how to “interpret” Joe’s stories.
So, even though she would have you believe she is innocent, a victim, in the end you know that, in her enablement, she is as much at fault as Joe:
Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives. Wives tend, they hover. Their ears are twin sensitive instruments, satellites picking up the slightest scrape of dissatisfaction. Wives bring broth, we bring paper clips, we bring ourselves and our pliant, warm bodies. We know just what to say to the men who for some reason have a great deal of trouble taking consistent care of themselves or anyone else.
“Listen,” we say. “Everything will be okay.”
And then, as if our lives depend on it, we make sure it is.
I don’t want to say too much and give away all of this book’s secrets (even though the surprise ending isn’t much of a surprise), but what I will say is that it’s a great read. Fast and funny and entertaining for those of us who like to look under the hood.