Friday, January 5, 2018

Domestic trauma, different perceptions

The Wife Between Us

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

St. Martin's Press

January 9, 2018

3 & 1/2 stars

At the beginning of The Wife Between Us, we quickly become acclimated to three main characters. The first one is Vanessa, the ex wife of a wealthy almost perfect catch of a husband. The second is Nellie, a young woman who works two jobs as a school teacher and a waitress and is now the fiance to the catch of a husband. The third is that husband, Richard.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen gives us these protagonists in a series of alternating chapters between Nellie and Vanessa,. Nellie's chapters are in third person while Vanessa's are in first person. This goes on for a third to half of the novel. Then Hendricks and Pekkanen throws us a hell of a literary curve ball. What it is will remain unsaid since it is at the center of everything that happens from that point on. Suffice to say, it is downright brilliant leaving the reader disoriented and rushing to keep up. Interestingly Richard doesn't get his own chapters. He is purposely seen from the eyes of the other narrators which is an important point in itself. Overall the pacing, the structure and the twists are all evidence of the authors' brilliant style and plotting.

I wish I could say the second half of the novel keeps up but it doesn't. It doesn't fall apart. In fact, we become even more involved in the three characters and how the plot will unravel. It just lags after the big reveal. There are two basic reasons for this. First is a continuous weave of background stories interspersed in the narrations. It is sometimes difficult to tell the present and the past in the narrative and I'm not sure if that is intentional or unintentional on the authors' part. More importantly much of it, but not all, seems like filler and doesn't add to the story. The second reason is an ending that meanders and drags. We get one more twist at the end but this time it feels forced and unrealistic, very much unlike the earlier twist.

What does work though works well. Vanessa becomes our main narrator and maybe an unreliable one. We do not know at first if we can believe her side of the story or how stable her mental state is.
We are given clues throughout, but the authors' building of the tension keeps us guessing until the very end. You probably notice I've said very little about the plot and more about the structuring of the plot. This is because the less you know, the more you will enjoy it. Basically, it is a story about an ex-wife, a soon-to-be wife and the man connected to both. It is not so much a suspense thriller in the conventional way but more of a tale about human perceptions and psychology. And this is why it works in the final analysis.

Despite the problems in the second half, I still enjoyed it. I just wished it stayed as tight in the second half as the first half. Overall though, I believe most readers will become quite involved with the main characters and that is why this novel has the good possibility of being the first blockbuster read of 2017. Even with my hesitation, I do recommend it for those who want a different form of suspense thriller.

No comments:

Post a Comment