The Wife: A Novel
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Meg Wolitzer brings her characteristic wit and intelligence to a provocative story about the evolution of a marriage, the nature of partnership, the question of a male or female sensibility, and the place for an ambitious woman in a man’s world.
The moment Joan Castleman decides to leave her husband, they are thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean on a flight to Helsinki. Joan’s husband, Joseph, is one of America’s preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop. From this gripping opening, Meg Wolitzer flashes back to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village and follows the course of the marriage that has brought the couple to this breaking point—one that results in a shocking revelation.
With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer has crafted a wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make—in marriage, work, and life.
despite my better instincts, here I was. “Do you know that you’re a totally pathetic person?” I said. “I trust you mean ‘pathetic’ in the best sense of the word,” said Joe with a slight smile. “Oh yes,” I assured him. “Absolutely.” Joe lay with his head against my shoulder, and we settled in for what remained of the night. If the sun rose in the morning and we were still lying here like this, the telephone having stayed silent, he would know that another year had passed and he hadn’t won the
would have to have a literary name. I want my children to know how important books are. And I want all of you to know that, too,” he said. “Because as you get older, life sort of eats away at you like battery acid, and all the things you once loved are suddenly harder to find. And when you do find them, you don’t have time to enjoy them anymore, you know?” We didn’t know, but we nodded somberly. “So I named my baby Fanny,” he went on. “And when you girls start to become baby machines in a few
clean-lined book that had plenty of hubris and thoughtfulness behind it. And he was handsome and rumpled, with eyes that looked tired all the time; journalists sometimes commented on that, and he would tell them about not sleeping. Tired and sad and wise. Wise: I’ve always hated that word; it’s so overused, as though weary, successful people somehow have secret access to larger truths. Hal Wellman seemed to think this was the case with Joe. Hal read the manuscript of The Walnut that first night
serious biography. That would mean he would have to take measure of his life, and reconcile himself to its eventual end. He was terrified of death. More immediately, he was terrified of sleep, death’s dress rehearsal. Other books about him had been written already: short, undistinguished volumes published by university presses, but nothing particularly insightful, nothing definitive, nothing with dirt in it, with juice. Bone’s biography would certainly be interesting; it would be very clever and
be counted on each year. (“Oh, look, there’s Merry at her locker, she got even prettier over the summer, if you can believe it.”) Of course she ached to be a writer. Like so many women, she burned for it, all she wanted to do was to publish, and her whole life was leading toward the moment when she found an agent and a publisher and her first book appeared. It might have happened, too, if she had been even a little talented. It might have happened if she’d figured out a way to make it happen.