Summer Reads! The Innocents, Wife 22, The Beginner’s Goodbye
School is out, so when I am not at the library, I am often at the beach with my kids, riding waves and reading books. I started my summer reading on a marriage theme. All three books are about coming to terms: with getting married, with being married, and with losing your spouse. They are good reads, but not for what happens with the plot. Really, these are character driven novels, and while one can see what choices are coming, one cannot always see what each will ultimately choose. All are love stories.
Here is what I have been reading:
The Innocents by Francesca Segal takes place in a Jewish suburb of London. Adam is engaged to Rachel and works for her father’s financial firm. Rachel is the only girl he’s loved, she reflects everything he wants, and after 13 years of dating, they are finally to marry. They seem to have everything in their favor. Enter Rachel’s cousin, the wild and enticing Ellie, reputed to have starred in an “art house film”. I love first novels, and this one grew on me. It is worth the read.
Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon. Here is the premise: a woman who is not unhappily married answers an anonymous online survey about marriage in the 21st century. She alternates between narrating the ups and downs of her family life and answering the survey questions, which leads to emails with her assigned researcher… The story itself isn’t new, but the quirk is the survey. You read the answers, and can flip to the end of the book for the questions. It is a clever way to see how wife 22 fell in love with her husband in the first place. There is a nice twist at the end-maybe a little predictable-but what this reader hoped. Worth the read.
The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler is the story of Aaron, a middle aged man who just lost his wife in a freak accident (a tree falls on their home and kills his wife.) As the house is being repaired and Aaron is trying to get on with his life, his wife begins to appear to him. I resisted reading this when it came out, thinking Yeah! A new Anne Tyler, and then oh, this will be more sad than I want for pleasure reading. I decided to give it a try. The good news is, it really isn’t sad. There are some poignant comments here and there that sum up Aaron’s marriage and grief at losing his wife, but I think you have to expect that. This novel will stay with you.