I enjoyed this book! Granted, I could personally relate to several aspects of this story, and that always seems to increase my enjoyment! There was much humor, subtle and otherwise! One of the opening scenes was amazingly similar to Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You, though in its own way, it was unique to Jonathan's story. I was left with much to ponder since the ending was not all nicely and neatly wrapped up, leaving some room for interpretation and speculation! The initial opening scene was quite humorous, John listing the three times he had been "struck by lightning" by various females, and the one time he was not...
Her face was so close to mine our noses touched, and I could smell the
apples and cinnamon on her lips, feel the warmth of her breath. It was the
closest I have ever been to anyone, in every way. It didn't feel like lightning
at all--just the opposite. Lightning is loud and scary; Claire made me feel
quiet and safe. (26)
Awwww...how sweet! I have read of male characters depicted as just knowing they will marry someone after their initial meeting, as Jonathan does. This seems a bit too impetuous to me. I certainly never felt that way upon meeting someone. Girls, could you weigh in on this? Any of you felt that way?
I can definitely relate to discovery of your spouse's infidelity and the emptiness, bewilderment, and abandonment you may feel as you try to incorporate this new reality into your most intimate of relationships, particularly if you have children. Yeah, I remember...and I applaud Jon for proceeding with his daily life, though he was naturally a bit distracted--I was totally unnerved--it took quite a while for me to fully incorporate this knowledge and get back to my routine. I could understand how the mind might latch onto some seemingly nonsensical thought about the fancy Frette sheets in the wake of what he saw through the keyhole. I believe that is a defense mechanism of the mind, incorporating such shattering knowledge a bit at a time...
I loved the way Jonathan actually missed his children so much! I cannot imagine missing out on time spent with them when they're young. He seemed to be a very kind, caring, hands-on father to both Andrew (age 6) and Phoebe (age 9) even though he was obviously a successful Wall Street executive. That made me like him even more. Speaking with them on the phone actually made him miss them more than not, so he would simply speak to their photographs in his office! Awwww...
I loved how Claire used the fact that she was married to finally assert herself with her parents and decline their skiing invitation,
"I hate skiing!" Claire said...
"You're kidding," I said. "I hate it too! I thought you loved it!"
"Never! My parents have been making me ski since I was six; I've hated
every day of it. It's freezing cold, the lift lines are endless, and the food in the
lodge is disgusting, even the hot chocolate. I just never had the heart to tell
my parents because it makes them so happy. But come on, I'm a married
woman now." (37)
As Jonathan realizes in remembering this scene, Claire lied to her parents rather skillfully... Though he continues,
I think every couple has that perfect moment, when both people realize
they really are right for each other and all the assumptions they had to make
along the way have been verified. Little doubts melt away, and for the first
time they both know for sure they really are going to be all right after the
euphoria of the engagement and the buzz of the parties and the whirlwind of
the wedding an the sporadic arrival of fancy dishes; when life becomes just
life again, they really are going to love each other after all. (37)
Although I never had a formal wedding or any of the other hoopla--just threw a party for the families the first time, and quietly signed papers at the courthouse the second time--I could relate to this feeling of solidarity with your partner, kinda you and him/her against the world. :)
Another aspect of this book to which I could closely relate was not really knowing your own father. I have never met my biological father and it is too late since he died almost 20 years ago, so I could easily relate to wanting to know more about this person, but especially given the fact that his father was so famous and powerful, and obviously NOT someone for whom a relationship would necessarily last a lifetime! I thought the perspectives of Jonathan's stepmothers were quite interesting, to learn that basically this man went from one partner to another based upon what he thought he needed at that time in his life, with evidently no thought of their feelings, only his own...though that could fit with the stereotypical politician's reputation?
It was remarkable to note Percival's real feelings of inadequacy and fears...of dying...of being alone, etc. Perhaps that is one of the biggest differences between these two men, the father had a blustery public persona which hid deep personal "problems"/issues while Jonathan was very confident and driven but was a much more settled and psychologically balanced person in his relationships.
Now for the wifely questions:
1) What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?
Being a wife to Jonathan's father, Percival the third (How pretentious is that name?), was obviously to be swept off your feet by someone with so much charisma and charm as to make you believe he really did care about you, though as several (perhaps all?) of his ex-wives noted, he truly did not care about anyone but himself in the end. And, perhaps it was to hopefully fulfill Percival's perceived need at that particular time. However, he did profess to each of them his love for Alice, Jon's mother, so perhaps somewhere down deep he did have a sense of loyalty, but he certainly didn't show it... As for Claire, I truly believe she was innocent and that it wasn't her Jon spied through the keyhole after all, and I believe he was quite secure in this interpretation of the events of the recent past. It all seemed to fit. Claire ran everything for her family, she was the glue that held it all together, but she was also very kind, caring, loving, and seemingly sincere. I believe each of Percival's wives had to be their own independent person so they could not just survive, but thrive, in the wake of his abandonment. Whereas, Jon and Claire seem to work at staying together and making a successful long-term relationship. So this book appeared to be more about how a man selects a wife than about how a woman carries out her role as wife, though we meet many women who discuss their role as wife...
2) In what way does this woman define "wife"--or in what way is she defined
I think all of Percival's wives were sincere in their role as his wife, though perhaps overly-impressed by his power and status, but they were mostly independent self-sufficient females who also made lives for themselves after their marriage to him. (Of course, the money helped make them financially secure if they weren't already...) Each of them seemed to be very unique from the others, definitely not a matter of him having always selected the same type of person to marry. It seems that wives of more successful men (at least in a financial sense) are perhaps more defined by their role as "the wife of..." whomever, than those whose husbands have less financial resources, unless the wives are successful in their own right. To me, Claire fit the stereotype of being "the wife of..." Jon, and it seemed to work for both of them, and their children.
Have you read this one yet? What did you think? I have a copy of his other book, All You Could Ask For, and I hope to read it sometime soon...
Please check out the reviews of the other co-hosting bloggers:
Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J
Naomi of Consumed by Ink
Kay of whatmeread
Join us for our next Literary Wives review of
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
on Monday, August 3rd.
I am really looking forward to reading this one.
And...we will have an interview with the author posted along with the reviews! (I'm double-excited now!) :)