- The Wife’s Tale written by Lori Lansens; read by Justine Eyre
- Publisher: Brilliance Audio on MP3-CD; MP3 Una edition (February 10, 2010)
- ISBN-13: 978-1441817488
Back-of-the-box blurb: On the eve of their silver anniversary, Mary Gooch is waiting for her husband, Jimmy — still every inch the handsome star athlete he was in high school — to come home. As night turns to day, it becomes frighteningly clear to Mary that he is gone. Through the years, disappointment and worry have brought Mary’s life to a standstill, and she has let her universe shrink to the well-worn path from the bedroom to the refrigerator. But her husband’s disappearance startles her out of her inertia, and she begins a desperate search. She boards a plane for the first time in her life and flies across the country to find her lost husband. So used to hiding from the world, Mary learns that in the bright sun and broad vistas of California, she is forced to look up from the pavement. And what she discovers fills her with an inner strength she’s never felt before: perfect strangers who come to her rescue, an aging, sometimes hostile mother-in-law who needs her help, friends who enjoy her company. And through it all, Mary not only finds kindred spirits, but reunites with a more intimate stranger no longer sequestered by fear and habit; she takes small yet courageous steps toward her authentic self.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ thoughts: Go, Mary, go! The Wife’s Tale is Mary Gooch’s story, told in the third person by an omniscient narrator who dips back into the past to tell us a bit about Mary’s childhood (developing and supporting her current character), her time dating Jimmy Gooch, and the twenty-five years of their marriage.
Mary Gooch is a kind-hearted woman who has always had “such a pretty face” and, except for a few short years during courtship and early marriage, has been a victim of the Obeast. ”Obeast” is what Mary hears the family doctor say to her mother as she steps off the scales as a pre-adolescent, immediately conjuring up images of a beast – one which is always present, menacing, and perhaps to fierce for her to even attempt to conquer.
To say the Mary is a sympathetic character may be a bit of a misnomer. In the first hour or so of listening, I found her to be simply pathetic – not much going for her, a dead-end job with colleagues and a boss who didn’t respect her, “friends” who were more companions than true girlfriends, and a very very unhealthy relationship with food.
I was immediately drawn to her and her story, though. Clearly she’s a kind and good person – Jimmy Gooch seems to have been supportive of her (not demeaning her about her weight issues, but certainly not in a co-dependent role either), she’s a caretaker to her mother, and takes seriously the responsibilities of her low-level employment.
So where did Jimmy go? And more importantly, why did he go? Back-story may give a few clues; Mary has been more and more reluctant to be social – she doesn’t travel, and often opts out of even simple dinner parties because she truly “doesn’t have a thing to wear.” When Gooch goes missing the day before a planned Silver Anniversary party, the timing is eerie … has something happened to Gooch, or is he making a statement of some sort?
Mary’s search for the answers – and for Gooch himself – lead her from their small Toronto suburb to Los Angeles. The road is not easy, but a few well-place “kindness from strangers” incidents show Mary that perhaps it’s her kindness, her inner beauty beyond the Obeast, that’s being reflected back at her.
I really enjoyed this novel and seeing Mary’s reactions to other people (that circular path of reacting to people who are reacting to Mary, who is reacting to another person …). One thing that struck me with the audio (which may not have hit me in reading a print edition), were a few mentions of God (“she”) in Mary’s search. While I was driving and listening I thought, is this a sneaky Christian fiction book (a book with a message that I didn’t expect at the outset, I mean). I don’t think it is; but, it’s worth mentioning – there are some wonderings about the stars and the cosmos and the grand order of it all, but no heavy-handed lesson.
Justine Eyre’s narration was excellent – comfortable pacing, with gender and character differentiation.