I picked the Wife Between Us up in honor of all the patrons who asked for help finding “the blue book they read a while ago”. The title seemed interesting enough, but the description sealed the deal. The idea that things aren’t what they seem is one of my favorite things to read about, the mystery of reading between the lies was exciting.
Part one of this book focused on Vanessa, Richard’s ex-wife, recovering from her separation and Nellie, a young woman who had fallen head over heels with him. Throughout this part, I couldn’t help thinking that there was something a little off about Richard. Something about him seemed manipulative and controlling, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then again, I reasoned, perhaps it was all a figment of my imagination because he had been just been through a messy relationship with Vanessa — who is clearly someone who is unhinged and prone to alcoholism. It was easy to roll my eyes at Vanessa and want her to get her life together. To let go of Richard and to stop obsessing over her replacement. It was easy to root for Nellie, someone who just wanted to feel loved and safe. Someone who found that person in Richard. Still, something wasn’t quite right, something nagged me about Richard.
Fast forward to part two. Well played Hendricks and Pekkanen, well played. I did not see that coming! I literally had a “wait, what?” moment when I learned that Nellie is the younger version of Vanessa, the nickname being given to her on the plane when she and Richard met because she was being a “Nervous Nellie”. The plot thicked immediately, my mind suddenly inspecting Vanessa’s marriage to Richard with a renewed intrigue.
Looking for clues and insight into who Richard is, while also trying to understand Vanessa’s story now that a light had been shined on it. The more I read, the more I was left wondering, who is Richard? Is he the nice guy he’s made out to be? Or is he the crazy one? I have to admit, the resemblance between Emma, his new fiancé, and Vanessa are uncanny.
As the story continued, everything came to a crashing head. The pacing of the plot suddenly quickening. Vanessa finally in a place where she can discuss the abuse and manipulation that she experienced during her years of being married to Richard. The light that is shined on his paranoia and his concern with appearances. It quickly becomes clear that throughout their marriage both parties played a game and the only person that game was dangerous for was Vanessa.
Emma was an interesting character to introduce to their game because of who she is — the daughter of the professor that Vanessa had an affair with in college — and because Vanessa used her to escape her marriage. True, Emma had an affair with Richard while they were still married and Vanessa put on an act to make Emma see her in a specific light, but the two women played each other. An interesting layer over the game that Vanessa and Richard were playing. The difference being that Emma was playing to hurt and Vanessa was playing to experience freedom. Watching Vanessa try to free Emma was fun because it allowed moments of “is Vanessa the crazy one after all”?
Now that it’s over, I can look back and say that while I had an inkling of some things, this book still provided me with a lot of surprises. Personally, I didn’t need the epilogue, where Emma’s true identity was revealed. While it added to the theme of things are not as they appear, I felt as though the book would have been fine if it had ended with the final chapter.
I passed the copy I found to a friend within hours of finishing it — I wonder what her response will be!
We’ll be reading We Set the Dark on Fire for June. A book based upon the idea that the Sun God decided that those on the inner circle deserve two wives to run their household. Set in a fantasy Latin America, this book appears to be the story of an immigrant who’s family snuck across the boarder in the dark of the night.
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.
On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?