It's never been hotter to be a housewife than now. The "desperate" ones are still chugging, ABC swaps them and "real" ones can be found in Orange County. Wendy Walker's rookie novel, Four Wives [WCF, Powell's, Amazon], introduces us to four new ones. This time they are from a very wealthy suburb in Connecticut and all with their own sordid tale to tell or in Love's case, run far, far away from.
Love Welsh, a fallen child prodigy and her three friends, a feminist father's rights/divorce attorney, an old money Zoloft addicted stay-at-home-mom and the epitome of the made-to-order suburban Barbie mom wrestle with the ups and downs of "perfect" suburban life. This indictment on suburban wives is a guilty pleasure sure to make you stay up far past your bedtime. Told from the perspectives of the wives (each chapter alternates) until one critical chapter where one husband takes the floor, four mysteries play out. Will the clinic use the fund raiser money for throw pillows or "controversial" matters? Who is Janie having an affair with? What happened that was so terrible that Love tried to kill herself as a teenager and still hasn't told her husband about? And how did the Ferrell baby really die? While the story lines are held together by the women's coffee chats, they do come crashing into each other on the day and night of the big fundraiser.
All the needed parts for a juicy romance novel are here, but with enough brains to not insult you.
One of Love's subplots deals with how the emotional toll wears her body down. There are a lot of "is it just in head?" moments, but honestly, how many of us haven't found ourselves in bed sick the day after a big project, final exams, or heaven forbid sick the day of a big presentation? The mind-body connection is explored, but gives an even hand to both the somewhat kooky ideas alternative medicine gives us and how Western flops around like a dying fish to explain something that doesn't have typical symptoms. There are also some wonderful exchanges between Love's mother, who is old-school in the way that men and women interact, and Marie who fights day and night with the patriarchy at large and within her own household and mind.
Walker paints some honest and hard pictures about the lives of women as mothers. The realization that you have failed as a mother, the immense workload that goes into being a stay-at-home mom, and negotiating the second shift for two income families. I should warn you that rape does play a part of two of the plotlines.
As a city-living mama who is already seeing the over-consumption mentality seep into four-year-olds' psyches, I had to laugh when one character decides that moving out of their country club loving suburb to New York City. As if the issues of entitlement and Juicy Couture evaporate once one crosses the river and lives in a diverse neighborhood. Otherwise this was a good addition to the ever growing mommy-lit genre and certainly a must for summer reading. Or for your upcoming trip to the Virgin Islands.
I eagerly await Walker's second novel.
Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the review copy of the book.
Technorati tags: book review, Four Wives, Wendy Walker, feminism
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