“The Wife” by Alafair Burke starts out the New Year with a thrilling read. It is more plot driven since many of the characters are not very likable. The story is intense and dark, being told by a possibly unreliable narrator.
The author does think “readers might disagree who is likable and who is not. It is a myth that characters must fall into one category or the other. I want to write complicated characters. Just as in real life it is hard to be always likable or not. At some point, everyone in the book is doing something that might be conceived as bad, with degrees of culpability. There are reasons why they are doing certain things and people can decide if those reasons are justified, excused, or understandable. The characters I like are Angela, her mother, her son, Colin, and Susanna.”
The storyline concentrates on Angela, who suffered extreme trauma in her teen years and now learns that her husband, Jason, may be a sexual predator. This novel is timely and will force people to question how they think about the victims of sexual misconduct and those they accuse. Today more and more women accuse politicians, celebrities, and businessmen of harassment. Burke must have had a crystal ball since she wrote this novel a year ago. The author delves into both facets, the accuser and the accused, where readers wonder if Jason actually raped someone, harassed them, was it a misunderstanding, or was it mutual?
Burke explores how “Angela sees her life going viral. She has no idea of the process because she has no background in law enforcement. People always think the wife had to know and is complicit. The idea for the book came from my responses as a prosecutor, which is ‘she would be the last person to know.’ Jason is not going to tell her he is sexually harassing women. Since she has no expertise or reliable information she must piece together the truth through her memories, news reports, and just having some skepticism of what he tells her. Think about it. Her husband was accused of sexual misconduct so his defense has to be there was mutual consent. For him, to be criminally innocent makes him culpable in the marriage. His legal exoneration means he has been having affairs.”
“The Wife” expertly delves into the different dynamics of relationships and the needed compromises that must be made to resolve conflicting values.