Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Other Wife By Kathleen Irene Paterka

Eleanor Anderson has a beautiful home, a loving husband, a tranquil life. After thirty-eight years of marriage and her children now grown, she finally has time for herself. She’s not expecting any surprises; certainly not to wake up one morning and find her husband dead in bed beside her from a massive heart attack. It’s a devastating discovery… but not as much as the shock awaiting Eleanor when she learns the truth about her husband’s secret life. 

Claire Anderson isn’t your average thirty something. A professor of psychology at a prestigious university, Claire has a successful career, a handsome husband, and two young children at home. But nothing in her background, including her academic accomplishments, prepares Claire for the horrendous reality of discovering that the life she’d led was all a lie… fostered by a husband who’d promised to love and cherish her forever.

Two women from two generations, bound together by denial, anger, and grief.  
What happens when each of these women comes face-to-face with the other wife?-Goodreads
This book isn't something that I would have picked up for myself but I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. Mostly because the themes in this book struck a chord within me. I found this book to be relatable in a very small way to me. I would say that it is unfortunate and I would hope that this book isn't relatable to anyone. 

So this book is about these two women. Both with children. Eleanor has two grown children and a grandchild. Claire has two toddlers. Unfortunately, Eleanor and Claire also share a husband. When Eleanor awakens to find Richard dead next to her, both their lives come crashing down. Suddenly finding herself in broke and homeless due to the fact that Richard had left all his money to Claire, Eleanor has to learn to adapt to a more eager lifestyle. Claire, with her buckets of money has to grieve over the man who she was falsely led to believe that she'd married. She has to cope with the fact that she only found out that he died well after he was buried and she has to figure out how to move on.

Now maybe I'll start this review off with the only flaw I found in this book. It was way too long. This book could have been about half it's length if there was proper editing done. A lot of thoughts were repeated more then twice and the inner monologues were lengthy and repetitive. Granted that they added a certain depth to the women and the story, it was unnecessary in my opinion.

Now, the good points. I loved how the author chose to parallel the women so similarly so that we could see just how this revelation affected each of them. I thought it was very interesting. I also really liked how each of them had such extreme impressions of the other but when they finally meet, they realise that everything they thought to be true was not.

I think this book is not really something a lot of teenage or even young adult readers would pick off the shelf for themselves so I'm really hoping that this review can convince you to give this book a try. I know this book seems more like an adult kind of book but let me assure you that it is very beautiful story.  It is a really interesting read and even if you don't have any personal experiences with the subject matter, the book still draws you in and teaches you a thing or two about the law. If you have a thing for the law or basically just curiosity over the 'what ifs' in life, you will enjoy this book.

This book was actually given to me to read and review by the author and she very kindly agreed to an impromptu interview when I was done reading. Here's what she had to say.

1) What inspired this book?

My husband Steve. Several years ago he was hospitalized for a cardiac issue. It was 5 am, and I was in his hospital room, sitting at the end of his bed in the semi-darkness. Suddenly he made a strange sound. I thought he was snoring… but it was the infamous ‘death rattle’. Steve had just died. Thank God he was in the hospital and hooked up to heart monitors. A Code Blue was called, and the medical team managed to resuscitate him. But Steve’s episode with death started me thinking. What if he’d been at home asleep in our bed? What would I have done when I heard that horrible snore? I probably would have poked him, then rolled over, and gone back to sleep… only to wake up and find him dead beside me. I tried to imagine how I would feel, and how I would handle things after he died. Then I started thinking along the lines of story: what if, after a woman’s husband died, she discovered he’d been hiding a secret… a horrible secret that would change her life forever?

2) Was there any reason why you were drawn to this subject matter?

I believe a good story begins with two words: ‘What If?’ Death is a natural part of life, and I wasn’t too keen on writing about the subject. But ‘what if’ the story started after the husband had died, and about how his wife handled the aftermath? And ‘what if’, in settling his estate, she discovered her husband had secrets? And to carry it further, ‘what if’ another woman was involved? And ‘what if’ the other woman was in exactly the same situation as the first (i.e., married to the man)? ‘What if’ neither of them knew about the other? How would they each cope? Would they want to meet? Would they resent each other? Would they be angry? Jealous? Would either seek revenge? I found the emotional prospect of creating a storyline around these two women, Eleanor and Claire, neither of whom knew about the other, tremendously exciting, and I began writing.

3) What was the most interesting thing you learnt/interesting person you met while researching for this book?

Dr. Penny Visser of the University of Chicago was extremely helpful to me in researching for the book. A professor of psychology at U of C, Dr. Visser gave me a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of the psychology department, introduced me to other departmental staff, and answered all my questions. I’m a very visual person; being able to tour the campus and psychology department with her was fascinating. I even saw a human brain in a jar on the desk of one of her fellow professors (and yes, that little detail went into the book!).

4) Does this kind of thing happen often? When a man has two wives in this day and age. Does it still happen?

In researching for the novel, I was careful not to involve myself with the interests of different faith groups that practice plural marriage. That being said, people are human. If they’re determined to do something, they often will not let the mere technicality of a law stop them. Bigamy exists, even though state laws mandate that a person may not be married to more than one person at a time. Richard thought he could get away with it, and so he married Claire. As for men having multiple wives who remain hidden from each other, Eleanor and Claire each had their own story to tell, but from a different perspective. Eleanor was married to Richard for 38 years, while his ‘marriage’ to Claire was brief (4 years). Each woman is devastated when she learns the truth about the other woman. How does each of them cope? And what happens when they eventually come together? How does each woman deal with ‘The Other Wife’?

5) Do you think Vivi’s claims that it was Eleanor’s fault that her dad found Claire was justified?

I don’t think that Vivi was emotionally stable enough to realize that her claims were unjustified. She had grown up as a daddy’s girl, and could never recognize her father’s failings. As far as Vivi was concerned, it was a natural assumption to blame Eleanor for Richard’s numerous affairs and his eventual marriage to Claire. Yet neither woman, Eleanor or Claire, was responsible for Richard’s behavior. He was brilliant in his manipulation of each of his wives, and did exactly as he pleased. Each woman did the best she could to bring herself and her children through the emotional dilemma in which they found themselves following Richard’s death.


5) Introducing Vivi’s mental illness was interesting. Do you think Richard had it too?

I think there definitely was a father/daughter connection. The classic definition of a narcissist includes personality traits such as grandiosity, arrogance, and lack of empathy towards others. Vivi followed her father Richard in that regard. She was certainly not empathetic when it came to her relationship with her mother Eleanor. And while some things are not necessarily a matter of ‘nature vs. nurture’, I do believe there is a genetic ‘predisposition’ to inherit certain qualities or traits from an earlier generation. For example, if a child’s father was an alcoholic, it does not necessarily mean that the child would grow up to become an alcoholic… but the ‘predisposition’ would be more a threat for that child than for another person whose family carried no addictive traits or behaviors.

My Rating: 4/5
*This book was given to me by the author to read and review*
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