Short books are a particular passion of mine. Not just because I'm running around, chasing a child, helping around the house, working a lot. Everyone does that. I love short books because when they really pack a wallop, they can be some of the most thoughtful, powerful books around. Such is the case with The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer.
At 35,000 feet, the main character, Joan Castleman, decides to leave her famous writer husband, Joe. He will accept the prestigious, incredibly lucrative Helsinki Prize, and as Joan is along for the ride, she's also incredibly fed up with Joe's bombastic attitude and womanizing ways. What follows is a chronicle of the early days of their marriage, their ups and downs, Joe's successes, and their mutual failures as parents and as a couple.
Until The Wife, I'd never read Wolitzer, but her reputation as a talented novelist precedes her. In fact, I own several of her books including The Uncoupling, The Ten Year Nap, and at one time, The Position. But did I read them? No. It took a short book to entice me, and I could not be more enticed to read further into her catalog of backlist.
Wolitzer's writing is whip-smart and stings at times. I loved Joan's feistiness, even if much of it was only in her head as she reminisced over the years of her marriage.
The way the book is set up, the reader KNOWS there is a big something building, and it's amazing to me that Wolitzer could build anything significant over 200 pages. It really is a talent I admire--the ability to be concise yet probing. While I did guess one big development near the end of the novel, Wolitzer knows the reader all too well, and threw in a second end-of-book sucker punch for good measure.
What results is a fascinating examination of domesticity, personal responsibility, and a novel that questions our motives and innermost insecurities.
If you're looking for a short book, start here.