By Wendy Walker
St. Martin’s Griffin Edition – April 2009
Affluent suburbia with its tree lined streets, pretty homes, and lush green lawns. An idyllic setting, but like the black fungus invading the verdant lawns, a plague of discontent has settled over the wives of Hunting Ridge. Four wives, four friends, living lives that are inherently the same, yet different. All stay at home moms, all filled with the same discontent, but using different means of coping.
Gayle Beck comes from ‘old money’ and takes pleasure in the social status it guarantees. Her life appears perfect to anyone looking from the outside. But inside her beautiful 1890’s farmhouse, things are far more sinister and getting worse each day. She deals with her husband’s rage, and a young son who continually grows quieter and unhappier. Gayle wonders how much longer she’ll be able to keep up the appearance of a woman in control; even with the aid of the many pills her doctor prescribes.
Janie Kirk is a woman of great beauty and expert homemaking abilities. She’s the perfect wife and mother. Janie likes her life in Hunting Ridge, but grows restless and dissatisfied with her passionless marriage and the husband who doesn’t know nor does he care to know the real woman he’s married to. Turning to a torrid affair could spell the end of everything for Janie.
Marie Pesseti, a part time divorce attorney struggling to have it all. Marie was going crazy being a full time, stay at home mom and opened her own small law office specializing in father custody cases. She feels she’s losing her husband and daughters to the Hunting Ridge way of life, which she abhors. Working a difficult case and dealing with a cute new intern, Marie is close to taking a step that may change her life forever.
Love Welsh, a former child prodigy and illegitimate daughter of the great Alexander Rice is Marie’s next-door neighbor. Love is having a difficult time keeping things together, her home is a mess and she rarely has time to do much more than brush her hair. She knows her life is a wreck and worries constantly about her children, but can’t seem to find the energy to rectify it. A letter from her estranged father causes the ghosts from Love’s past to resurface and things go from bad to worse. Love develops horrific, debilitating back pain, but all the medical tests fail to explain the reason for it.
When it fell to me to read and review FOUR WIVES, I wasn’t sure if I could do it justice. It just isn’t my kind of story. There’s nothing I dislike more than reading about women with expensive educations, too much money and do too much whining. Women who have it all, but are never happy. Women who are doing what many women would love to do—stay at home and raise their children instead of going to a back breaking job and leaving the kids in day care, so they can make enough money just to get by. But keeping an open mine, I turned to the first page. The excellent writing pulled me into the story. The phenomenal characterization kept me there.
Although I found these four women unlikable, I liked them anyway. All four women are devoted mothers and fearful of making any choices that would adversely affect their children. I became absorbed in their lives and couldn’t stop turning the pages. Even though their lives are so far from my own, I could see tiny pieces of myself in each of them. I too have suffered from a bad marriage, dissatisfaction, depression, restlessness, and bone deep weariness. I too have had to keep my silence, and make tough choices for the good of my children and my sanity.
The characters created on these pages are so real, I could easily picture them as friends or sisters and like my own family and friends, I took them into my heart, faults and all. I rooted for them to make the right decisions. I wanted to shake Gayle and kept hoping she’d tell her shrink to F-off, and then kick her good for nothing husband out of the house. Marie is a snotty little witch devoted to family, loyal to friends, full of strength, courage and integrity. I loved her and could definitely see her as a best friend. I wanted to alternately hug Love, and shake her. And Janie, I wanted to slap her, hug her. I cried for her. And in the end, she broke my heart.
Ms. Walker is a gifted writer and knows how to keep her reader’s eyes glued to her words. Skillful plotting builds the tension page after page. I kept waiting for the hump to come. The one where the story loses me for a while and I can put it down to tend to necessary chores. It didn’t happen and the chores were left until I’d turned that last page. I highly recommend this book to all women regardless of their life’s circumstances.
FOUR WIVES is about women and sentiment, passion and marriage, motherhood and most of all friendship. I defy you not to find a small bit of yourself within its pages. It’s been several days since reading this story and I can’t get these women out of my mind. They aren’t easy to forget and I imagine will be with me for a long time.
–Working Girl Reviews