Monday, June 1, 2015

Literary Wives #15

My Father's Wives 
Admittedly, I know nothing about this author. We never watch TV--purposefully! And if I did, I would never watch sports! So I have no preconceived notions or expectations going into this book. Though the premise does sound interesting and I feel it could go anywhere.

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) 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 
    by wife? 

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!) :)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


  1. I'm glad one of us found something to like in this book! I appreciate your perspective on relating to some of the conflicts in this book through your own experiences. And I, too, liked Jonathan's role as a father. He did seem to genuinely care about his own children, despite his difficult relationship with his own father. I didn't relate much to the sports stuff either!

    1. Yikes! Sounds like you didn't like this one at all. Sorry!! :) Yes, I always think a personal connection with any written material makes it much more pertinent! Can't wait to see your review this evening!! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I guess you liked the book better than I did. You made some good points about Jonathan as a father, although I think we saw too little of Claire to make very many judgments about her. Her role to me seemed to be the stereotypical suburban wife. To me, the other wives were too thinly characterized to know much about them.

    1. I agree with you, Kay. Not much detail about any of the wives, per se, but yes, I think Claire fit the typical stereotype of a suburban wife, though I thought she did a good job of it...some don't! It seemed that both parents were truly invested and totally involved in their children's lives. I liked that!

  3. It looks like you liked the book better than the rest of us, but it would help to be able to relate to some of the things going on. There really was nothing for me to relate to, which is not a bad thing. I did think Jon made a good father - I'm glad you pointed that out. But, I thought Claire was just too good, which didn't strike me as realistic. I agree with what you've said about Percy and his wives.. I think Jonathan's mother might have been my favourite character - she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders.
    I wonder what his first book is like...

    1. I'm becoming accustomed to liking most of the books we read better than everyone else! :) Claire was good, but I didn't think her character was unbelievable... Yep! I really liked Jon's mom, Alice, too. I am hoping to read his first book within the next month. We shall see if I get time to fit it in. :) Thanks for stopping by!