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Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Books For Fans of Gone Girl

My Book Report column from the Citizen: 

One of the hottest selling books in recent years, “Gone Girl”, tells the story of a bad marriage, a missing wife and husband suspected of killing her.

For fans of “Gone Girl”, there are three recent novels that tread similar ground- that of bad marriages, with elements of murder and psychological twists. They have some similarities- two feature physician husbands, two feature therapist wives, and all three have psychologically damaged people.

Alice LaPlante’s “Circle of Wives” tells the story of a celebrated pediatric plastic surgeon found dead in a hotel room. At his funeral, it is discovered that he has three wives. 

His first wife lives in the big home and spends her time on charitable works. She is one tough manicured-to-the-teeth cookie, and we come to discover that not only did she know about the other wives, she carefully orchestrated her husband’s complicated life.

The second wife got out of a bad marriage and headed west with her two young sons. She became an accountant, and she and her doctor husband lived a quiet life, tending to their peaceful backyard garden.

The third wife is a pediatric oncologist, who spent little time with her husband, but understood because his practice was in another city hours away. She was a quiet, disciplined woman who gave so much of her life to her work, she never thought she’d marry.

“Circle of Wives” is the most traditional mystery of the three novels, a real whodunit.
The writing is crisp and the characters are well written, (especially wife #1) much like LaPlante’s previous novel “Turn of Mind”. Once again, she will keep you guessing to the end.

A.S.A. Harrison’s “A Silent Wife” lets you know right up front that the wife is the killer, her husband the victim. From there, we go backwards to discover why and how it happens.

The story is told in alternating chapters by “Him” and “Her”. Jodi is a 45-year-old part-time personal therapist, who sees clients in their beautiful condo with a waterfront view. She has a great life, which she fills with work, exercise classes, decorating the condo and cooking fabulous meals for her husband Todd.

Todd buys and renovates homes and office buildings, and is quite successful. He enjoys life with Jodi, but he has a wandering eye and over the years has cheated on her with several women.

Todd doesn’t know that Jodi is aware of his cheating, but she turns a blind eye to it. She is unaware that Todd’s new girlfriend is more serious; the girl is a college student and daughter of his best friend.

When the girlfriend gets pregnant, something Jodi and Todd had tried unsuccessfully to do, Todd is pushed into divorcing Jodi. Jodi falls apart, and is unwilling to believe that the life she adores is coming to an end.

Telling the story in alternating voices works well for this novel, as we can really get inside the heads of these fascinating characters and understand their actions. I liked this one better than “Gone Girl”.

The last book, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s “You Should Have Known” is more of a character study than the other two.  Grace Reinhart Sachs is on top of the world. She is a marriage therapist, with a terrific 12 year-old son and a pediatric oncologist husband beloved in his field. 

Grace has written a book titled “You Should Have Known”, whose thesis is that women need to pay attention to the signs when they are dating that the man they are with is not someone they should marry. She believes that the best way to insure that marriage will last is to choose wisely.

When she can’t reach her husband, who is supposed to be at a convention, and a mother from her child’s expensive private school is brutally murdered, these two events come together to decimate Grace’s life.

This story is more of a character study, as we watch Grace try to come to terms with the fact that she really never knew her husband. She must try to figure out how to put her and her son’s life back together. It also features a fascinating look at the culture of upper class New York City dwellers, something very foreign to most of us. This is my favorite of the three books, but each of the three book earns four stars out of five rating.

My review of Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind is here. 
Alice LaPlante's website is here for more info on Circle of Wives.
A.S.A. Harrison, who tragically passed away, has a website here for more info on The Silent Wife.
Jean Hanff Korelitz's website is here for more info on You Should Have Known.

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