BookBrowse Reviews The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

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The Wife Between Us

by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen X
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2018, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2018, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

The Wife Between Us is an intriguing collaboration between first-time novelist Greer Hendricks and bestselling author, Sarah Pekkanen. It is a page-turning psychological thriller about the lies we tell one another, including our own selves.

The story is primarily narrated by Vanessa, the former wife of Richard, a wealthy entrepreneur with exacting requirements for all aspects of his life, including his marriage. Vanessa has failed to live up to his expectations and he has moved on. But she is unable to, obsessing about the woman who is soon to become her ex's new spouse. At first Vanessa appears unhinged and delusional, but as the plot unfolds, we begin to suspect all is not as it seems. Alternate chapters, told in third-person so as to distinguish them from Vanessa's narrative, focus on Nellie as she prepares to wed Richard.

There is plenty of suspense as readers try to puzzle out what really took place between Vanessa and Richard and how Nellie fits into this picture. At one point, Vanessa states: "In my marriage, there were three truths, three alternate and sometimes competing realities. There was Richard's truth. There was my truth. And there was the actual truth, which is always the most elusive to recognize." This is without doubt the core of the book—paring back layers of assumptions and appearances until one arrives at the elusive and ineffable reality.

Pekkanen and Hendricks write beautifully and create a marvelous sense of realism. Vanessa in particular is impressively drawn, an unreliable narrator who often understands she's not trustworthy. In one scene for example, she's peeling onions to make supper for her aunt, but the act conjures up a memory:

So there I was, in my exquisite kitchen, stocked with Wusthof knives and Calphalon pots and pans, cooking dinner for the new husband. I was happy, I think, but I wonder now if my memory is playing tricks on me. If it is giving me the gift of an illusion. We all layer them over our remembrances; the filters through which we want to see our lives. I wipe my eyes and gesture to the cutting board. "Just the onion." I can't tell if [my aunt] believes me.

Fans of Paula Hawkins' The Girl On the Train and Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl will recognize these authors' devices in The Wife Between Us. Like the former book, this novel is narrated by a woman in crisis who is undeniably an alcoholic, and like the latter, there are unexpected plot twists that change the reader's perception of what's actually going on. I remember getting to the end of Part 1, where the first surprise occurs, and thinking, "Wait… What?" and having to go back to re-read earlier pages. I admire authors who are able to pull something like this off without dropping the slightest clue that things aren't as they appear; Hendricks and Pekkanen succeed brilliantly. However, it felt as if they were overtly copying others' styles and consequently, the plot comes across as somewhat contrived.

That's not to say the book won't be a big hit; The Wife Between Us is entertaining if familiar, and its fast pace makes for a great light read. Its parallels to other successful novels will likely ensure its popularity as well. It's already been optioned for a movie by the same production company that brought The Girl on The Train to film.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in February 2018, and has been updated for the October 2018 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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