Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'The Wife's Tale' Becomes a Story of Finding Oneself While Losing Oneself

I don't remember reading Lori Lansens's second novel The Girls. The title and her name sound so familiar, but in reading the summary for it, nothing sounds like a book I've read. Many readers will remember her from that bestselling novel, but she writes a very different story in her latest release. In The Girls, Lansens explored the story of a set of conjoined twins. In The Wife's Tale, Lansens has a single narrator, one who is isolated from the world around her.

Mary Brody Gooch is a housewife. No, not the kind you see on Bravo's television series, with diamonds dripping and fake tan brightly displayed. Rather, she is morbidly overweight and hasn't shared a bed with her husband in more than six years. An only child, Mary's mother is now confined to a local nursing home and her father recently passed away. Alone in the world except for her husband and her cat, Mary eats her way from sunrise to sunset, trying to cram enough food into her body to fill the hunger she feels constantly. She works part-time at the local pharmacy, but often finds herself the butt of jokes.

During a brief period in high school, Mary found herself thin; it was at this moment that she met her future husband, a high school athlete who wouldn't have given Mary the time of day before. But as the years pass by, she slowly adds weight back to her frame, and at the same time, a blanket of melancholy over her soul. Then one day, not too long after the passing of her cat and her father in quick succession, Mary's husband doesn't come home. As she sets out on a journey to find them and make things right between the two of them, she loses her appetite and some of those excess pounds. Simultaneously, she finds herself.

What sounds like a cliched tale actually develops into a story full of emotion and beautifully written by Lansens. It is multi-faceted and unexpected in its surprisingly fresh minor characters and nuances of plot. Although I found some parts of the novel a bit slow-moving for my taste, I relished in each new-found joy Mary discovered. I also wanted to know what would happen at the end. Would they get back together? Would Mary find who she truly wanted to be? Ultimately, would Mary ever be happy? While Lansens does not deliver a cut-and-dried, happily-ever-after ending to the novel, she leads the reader through the emotions felt by Mary and I believe you could say Mary triumphs in the end.

Read a fantastic interview with Lori Lansens from author Joshilyn Jackson over at Faster Than Kudzu to learn more about the author and her three novels, including this one. (Oh, and on a side note? I really, really thought I entered the contest to win a copy of this book. But in scanning the comments, can't find my name anywhere. I was so disappointed when I didn't win... The moral? Double-check yourself if you really want to win a contest!!)

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