Source: DRC via NetGalley (St. Martin’s Press)
Pub. Date: April 5, 2022
Why did I choose to read this book?
I read Hepworth’s The Good Sister and was blown away by her writing, so when The Younger Wife started showing up on those “most anticipated” lists, I put in a request. I haven’t read any of Hepworth’s work prior to The Good Sister though, so I may do that just to see if this has always been her style.
What is this book about?
At its heart, this book is about trauma, abuse, and survival. Every single main character in this book (all female other than the dad, Stephen) has been abused or is exhibiting behaviors that would indicate some kind of trauma in their past. Heather, Stephen’s new fiancee, is introduced as a child of domestic abuse right from the get go, but she hasn’t revealed this to Stephen. Stephen’s wife (ex-wife) Pam is in a nursing home with early-onset dementia. Tully (one of Stephen’s daughters) is a kleptomaniac, and Rachel (his other daughter) is a compulsive eater (but thankfully not bulimic, she’s described as gorgeous with amazing curves and never, not once, does any other character imply that she needs to lose weight or eat less).
At the basic plot level, this book is about how Stephen’s family copes with his current wife Pam’s mental decline and his new fiancee happening at the same time, with the extra spice of old man dates woman younger than his children tossed in for good measure. You’ll eventually learn all their secrets, and get to the true source of all their dysfunctions. You will be surprised along the way, and you won’t be disappointed by how things shake out.
What is notable about the story?
I loved that Hepworth approaches trauma and coping mechanisms as normal. Sometimes you don’t get over or get past the trauma, you can only manage its effects. Some coping mechanisms are harmful and others are just tools, and the characters in this story definitely help you explore when to ask for help, and when to just keep swimming.
Another aspect of Hepworth’s writing that I also found lovely in The Good Sister is her presentation of people that we might be extra judgmental about as normal people in society that deserve our time, support, and sympathy. The setting of the story recognizes the COVID pandemic and its effects on individuals and small businesses, so certain B-level characters who might appear as “lazy unemployed people who should get a job!” are just trying to get through the trauma of that too by doing the best they can. At every level, this story asks us to see other people through the lens of their trauma, in an effort to both understand and support them. Simply beautiful concepts.
Was anything not so great?
In terms of writing or story progression, there was nothing wrong with this book. I picked it up and didn’t want to stop reading. There are a LOT of trauma triggers in here though, and so while this is not a criticism, I want to let you know that there is a WHOLE lot going on in this book relative to domestic abuse, gaslighting, and abuse and so if you’re significantly triggered by that due to your own experiences, tread lightly and don’t worry if you have to put the book down for a bit.
What’s the verdict?
I think I’m going 4/4.5 stars on this one. It wasn’t as good as The Good Sister but it was still really good! If you like messy families who just want to do better but don’t know how, thrillers where the bad guy could be anyone, and revenge on behalf of women wronged, then you need to go and get this book.
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