THE WIFE’S TALE by Lori Lansens

I just finished The Wife's Tale, by Lori Lansens, which is the second book I have read with the Manic Mommies Book Club. (The book club is run by Mari of Bookworm With A View.) The first was April & Oliver, by Tess Callahan.

Lansens I was excited to read this book. I have had Lori Lansens' The Girls on my TBR list for a long time, and have heard good things about it. The Wife's Tale is the story of Mary Gooch, an obese woman living outside Toronto who has been married for 25 years to her childhood sweetheart, Jimmy Gooch. When The Wife's Tale opens, Mary has just been left by Jimmy. The first half of the book explores in great detail Mary's very sad existence – her obsession with food, her self-loathing, her lack of ambition or curiosity about the world, and her inability to communicate with Jimmy. I loved the first half of this book – it was beautifully written, and Lansens did a good job of making Mary – a rather frustrating character – sympathetic. Lansens expertly conveyed the claustrophobia of Mary's life in a way that was interesting and compelling.

Halfway through the book, Mary gets on a plane and flies to LA in search of Jimmy.(WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD). For me, the book went downhill at this point. The second half of the book is Mary's redemption. Her victory over the demons that plagued her in Toronto. Her discovery of her own self-worth and the power of her body. And she is aided in this redemption by a motley crew of characters she meets by happenstance along the way. I found this second half formulaic and predictable, which was in sharp contrast to the uniqueness of the first half. It also was unrealistically compressed into five weeks – too short of a time for the turnaround Mary experiences.

The book does not have a tidy ending, which was fine with me. I was happy for the ambiguity, which mitigated the predictability of the second half. 

Overall, I give this book a positive review. I am definitely glad I read it, and am looking forward to reading The Girls. I would have preferred a grittier second half, but I still enjoyed the book a lot.

Thank you to Little Brown for the review copy (Hi FTC!) and to Mari for organizing the book club.

6 Comments

  • February 14, 2010 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    I loved this book, even if it was a little formulaic – there were a few twists that surprised me.

  • February 14, 2010 - 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been seeing some talk about this book lately. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • February 17, 2010 - 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Glad you enjoyed the book. I skimmed your review when I saw the spoiler warning because I have a copy and I’m looking forward to reading it soon!

  • February 18, 2010 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

    It is so frustrating when a book seems to change styles in the middle. I am glad you had a mostly positive experience with it.

  • March 3, 2010 - 3:35 pm | Permalink

    When a book seems to go off kilter like this one seems to have, I always wonder if the editing process had something to do with it.

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