Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: The Third Wife

Summary: In the early hours of a summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide?

At the center of this puzzle is Adrian Wolfe, a successful architect and grief-stricken widower, who, a year after his third wife’s death, begins to investigate the cause. As Adrian looks back on their brief but seemingly happy marriage, disturbing secrets begin to surface. The divorces from his two previous wives had been amicable, or so it seemed; his children, all five of them, were resilient as ever, or so he thought. But something, or someone, must have pushed Maya over the edge. -- Atria

I feel as if author Lisa Jewell has kind of grown-up with me. I realize that sounds crazy to say that about someone I don't even know, but I used to relate to her books when I was younger; and now, I appreciate that her books are more mature and thought-provoking. Her latest novel THE THIRD WIFE examines the dynamics of today's modern families.

THE THIRD WIFE surrounds the death of Maya, a 30 year old woman who steps in front of an oncoming bus late on night after drinking too much. She is the third wife to Adrian Wolfe, a successful architect and father of five. Her death is a mystery to Adrian because it was so unlike Maya to be drunk and wondering the streets, and he begins to wonder if it was an accident or suicide.

When a strange and mysterious woman enters his life, Adrian believes that she might hold the clues to his wife's death. It's difficult for Adrian to imagine, but he questions if Maya was as happy as he thought in their marriage. Adrian had done his best to amicably split ways with his two ex-wives and share custody of the five children. All of them (including the "wives") spent holidays together and things were seemingly comfortable for everyone... or were they?

Adrian begins to explore the idea that Maya wasn't happy in their marriage, and clues begin to appear that confirm his suspicions. Adrian learns that something or someone must have (literally and/or figuratively) pushed his wife into the path of the bus and to her premature death.

I liked THE THIRD WIFE quite a bit which is no surprise given my adoration of Ms. Jewell. The novel was part mystery and part exploration of family dynamics, and overall, it was a very thought-provoking read. I appreciated the variety of characters in the novel and how there were developed; and I thoroughly enjoyed how Ms. Jewell decided to tell Maya's stories through the use of flashbacks.

When I first started reading THE THIRD WIFE, I was a little surprised by how all three families seemed to get along so well. It seemed a bit crazy to me given the acrimonious divorces I've witnessed in my life. All three of the wives were cordial to each other -- even more than cordial if that's possible; and the kids seemed to be pretty well adjusted given the disruptions in their lives. It almost seemed too good to be true...

And that's exactly what I found as I read more of this novel. Adrian believed that he could marry and divorce and that there would be no major or lasting impact on his family. I wouldn't have been surprised to learn that the ex-wives and children were suffering hidden pain (and that did eventually come out); however, it was the sorrow that Maya was experiencing that really affected me.

Maya was much younger than the other women (and pretty close in age to Adrian's first two children), and she did her best to keep everyone happy. She even tried to plan vacations for the families and meet everyone's expectations; however, she was personally having a difficult time handling all of the pressure. When she starts receiving mean-spirited anonymous emails that have too much detailed information to come from anyone outside of the family, her life begins falling apart.

I really would say that THE THIRD WIFE is primarily a mystery, but there is no doubt that there is a mystery angle or two to the story -- what actually happened to Maya and who was sending her the emails? I actually liked these aspects to the story and was impressed with how well Ms. Jewell addressed them. I felt as if the pacing of the story was just right and I thought she did a great job with the eventual reveal.

THE THIRD WIFE would make an excellent book club selection. There is a reading guide available with sixteen questions along with some ways to enhance your book club meeting. Some of the themes you might want to explore include alienation, divorce, families, forgiveness, love, secrets, and coping mechanisms. In addition, the characters are fascinating in their own right and analyzing them would be interesting.

I found THE THIRD WIFE to be an intriguing story about family dynamics and what lies beneath the surface of a seemingly happy family. I think many readers will relate to one or more of the characters, especially given today's mixed family situations. It was a touching, yet insightful, read with wonderfully rich characters. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

Why have I never read any of Lisa Jewell's books? It sounds like I need to remedy that as soon as possible.

Kay said...

I got this one recently to read. Hope to get to it soon. I was attracted by the whole family dynamics angle. Nice review!