Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: The Last Original Wife

Summary: Experience the sultry Southern atmosphere of Atlanta and the magic of the Carolina Lowcountry in this funny and poignant tale of one audacious woman’s quest to find the love she deserves, from New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank.
Leslie Anne Greene Carter is The Last Original Wife among her husband Wesley’s wildly successful Atlanta social set. His cronies have all traded in the mothers of their children they promised to love and cherish—’til death did them part—for tanned and toned young Barbie brides. 

If losing the social life and close friends she adored wasn’t painful enough, a series of setbacks shake Les’s world and push her to the edge. She’s had enough of playing the good wife to a husband who thinks he’s doing her a favor by keeping her around. She’s not going to waste another minute on people she doesn’t care to know. Now, she’s going to take some time for herself—in the familiar comforts and stunning beauty of Charleston, her beloved hometown. In her brother’s stately historic home, she’s going to reclaim the carefree girl who spent lazy summers sharing steamy kisses with her first love on Sullivans Island. Along Charleston’s live oak- and palmetto-lined cobblestone streets, under the Lowcountry’s dazzling blue sky, Les will indulge herself with icy cocktails, warm laughter, divine temptation and bittersweet memories. Daring to listen to her inner voice, she will realize what she wants . . . and find the life of which she’s always dreamed. 

Told in the alternating voices of Les and Wes, The Last Original Wife is classic Dorothea Benton Frank: an intoxicating tale of family, friendship, self-discovery, and love, that is as salty as a Lowcountry breeze and as invigorating as a dip in Carolina waters on a sizzling summer day. -- William Morrow

Prior to attending this year's BEA, I decided to participate in Hit the Beach with the Dorothea Benton Frank Read Along. If I agreed to review THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE and either LOW COUNTRY or PORCH LIGHTS, I could attend a cocktail party with Ms. Frank and fellow participants. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and reviewed PORCH LIGHTS which I liked quite a bit before BEA.

After spending a few hours with the absolutely delightful Ms. Frank, I couldn't wait to come home and read THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE. I adored Ms. Frank's sense of humor and my interest was definitely piqued with her descriptions of the new novel. Believe it or not, Ms. Frank based a few of the scenes in THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE on a friend's marriage. (Actually she admitted that she had to tone down a few of the stories because no reader would ever believe them!) I couldn't get over one of the stories about a manhole accident, and I'm still a little nervous about walking city streets even now!

THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE tells the story of Les and Wes (too cute right?), a couple whose marriage is on the brink of collapse. Les is just fed up with Wes and she doesn't feel as if she is appreciated at all. When she starts seeing Wes' friends trading in their longtime wives for younger ones, she realizes that she no longer belongs in their world, nor does she have any desire to change for him at this point in her life. She decides to leave Wes for Charleston to visit her gay brother (another bone of contention in their marriage!) While Les is away basking in the beauty of Charleston, she discovers an old flame and begins to realize what she wants out of life... and it doesn't include Wes.

I am so glad that I signed up to participate in this read along because I'm afraid that I wouldn't have read a Dorothea Benton Frank book otherwise. And that would have been very unfortunate because I really enjoyed both of the books I've read by her. They are just perfect for the summer or anytime you want to escape.

There are so many good things to say about THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE. Probably one of the best things I can say about the story is that it made me laugh. Ms. Frank has a wonderful sense of humor and it was apparent throughout this novel. While I found Wes' actions to be incredibly selfish, I still managed to laugh at him. And once Les started to realize how special she was, I found her reactions and insight into her husband's behavior to be very funny.

However, I also really appreciated the character development of Les and how much she evolved throughout the novel. In many ways, THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE was a coming-of-age tale albeit one that occurred when a woman was in her late 50s. I loved the heartwarming messages about self-esteem, acceptance, and second chances. Furthermore, I liked some of the social commentary on marriage, relationships, and family.

THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE would make a very fun book club selection. I have a feeling that this book will definitely resonate with middle-aged (and older) women. Since the book is extremely entertaining, it will be a popular selection; however, there are also some very real and serious issues discussed in the novel. I've already mentioned some of the themes you might want to explore in the last paragraph. You can also incorporate a Charleston or Atlanta theme to your meeting with fun recipes including various drinks and appetizers.

I am so glad that I finally discovered the sheer pleasure of Dorothea Benton Frank's novels. Summer is the perfect time for you to pick up a copy of THE LAST ORIGINAL WIFE!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I definitely should read more books about middle aged women than about 16 year old teens! LOL

bermudaonion said...

I really enjoyed this book too. I agree with you that Frank's humor comes through in her writing - she's a hoot!

Beth F said...

I too enjoyed this one and love Frank's sense of humor -- on the page and in person.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have yet to read any of her books, although I have Low Country loaded on my iPod. I met her at SIBA, she is a very charming woman. And a digression: In college I saw a girl fall into one of those holes with the grates over them. Hot air blows up from them? Don't know what they are. But after that, I NEVER walked on one again.

Booksnyc said...

I agree that Frank expertly weaves humor in with more serious topics. The book definitely had me laughing in places.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

Sounds good! I am about to start her Folly Beach book this afternoon.

trish said...

I love books that can make me laugh! Sometimes you just need a push to discover a new fantastic author. I'm glad this event is what did it for you!