The Other Wife by Kathleen Irene Paterka

the-other-wife

The Other Wife
by
Kathleen Irene Paterka

Rating:

Eleanor Anderson’s comfortable life in the Chicago suburbs changes forever when her husband Richard dies in his sleep, but not for the usual reasons.  Her life begins its crumble when she learns about the changes in Richard’s life insurance policy, changes that point to another woman.  She’s sure it’s a mistake and as her lawyer son Jeffrey tries to make sense of the news and keep his money monger sister Genevieve at bay, what becomes obvious is that there is indeed not just another woman, but a second younger wife and two small children tucked in a nice house in Hyde Park.

Meantime, Claire Anderson has no idea that her husband has died.  Richard had supposedly been off on a long trip as an independent contractor working with the U.S. government.  Being the beneficiary is not enough to comfort Claire, who thought Richard was the perfect husband.

Tension builds as the two women move towards an inevitable confrontation, but the plot twists and new characters muddle up the drama.  The author closes with an exciting meet-up and satisfying finish, with a few surprises.

I was looking for a fun read and enjoyed escaping into this light and easy story.  I like reading about characters with secret lives and think the plot premise is the strongest part of The Other Wife.  I think Eleanor’s character is the most developed, enabling the reader to identify with her situation.

There’s a great deal of repetition, however, which takes away from the experience.  In addition, plot developments are somewhat unrealistic as well as are some of the lightweight details that drive the story.  This is the kind of book that you pick up, read for fun, and move on.  Put your analytical mind on the shelf and enjoy the escape!

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Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

silver sparrow picSilver Sparrow
by
Tayari Jones

Rating:

Tayari Jones writes an original story about a man with two families – two wives and two daughters. Written first from the voice of the “secret” daughter, Dana, and later by her unknowing half-sister, Chaurisse, we see how James Witherspoon tries to balance his two lives. And because Dana and her mother Gwen know they came second, after James’s marriage to Laverne, it’s a secret that is too big to keep.

Besides the obvious duplicity of bigamy, Jones takes a look at the complicated relationships between father and daughter, from generation to generation. She shows how these relationships can fail, and how they are sometimes too broken to fix.

I think most of her characters struggle to understand themselves and want to do the right thing for the people they love. I felt sorry for Dana and Gwen when I read Dana’s side of the story. They feel second-best and I wanted to forget that Gwen consciously chose to get involved with a married man.

Sentiments change in the second half when we learn more about Laverne and Chaurisse and I think Jones is at her strongest here. I think Laverne is her most developed and best character when we see that she is a loving mother and a hard-working business-owner who is respected by her friends and salon clients. I became even more attached to her as I learned about her early relationship with James, Raleigh and Miss Bunny.

The bond between half-sisters is also touching before all secrets are told and I enjoyed that part. I think Jones does a great job describing how Chaurisse feels less attractive than her new “silver” friend, Dana.

I think Raleigh, James’s step-brother, is the next best character and wish he had been more developed. Jones touches on Raleigh’s feelings for Gwen and his loyalties to both families and because his character is consistently good, I wanted him to find his own happiness.

Without giving away plot, there are weaknesses too, particularly when Jones describes action in the story. The description of Miss Bunny’s brooch and its whereabouts is awkward. There seem to be gaps in this explanation and I’m not sure I understand how exactly it changes hands. The scene at the gas station outside Atlanta is equally confusing and, although written through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl, needs to be clearer.

I also think the Al Green reference is a little forced and I’m not sure why Jones decided to include this true story of Mary White assaulting Green with boiling grits. Maybe she wants us to understand Laverne’s own spirituality. I don’t know.

This is an easier read, despite the serious subject. Although the ending has drawn reader criticism, I was satisfied with the less-than-perfect conclusion.

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