Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan

Another novel from Stewart O'Nan. Here again, as with The Speed Queen, the anti-hero is in jail. In this case, he is not the main character. He is a main character, but not the main character. The main character is the anti-hero's wife, whose name, as is usual, I cannot remember (along with any of the other characters'). As the title suggests, this wife is the epitome of "stand-by-your-man" which, you can decide if that is good or not. What is indicated by the title, I think, is the former (former?), concept/ideal/image of the "good wife," the wife who indeed stands-by-her-man and keeps her mouth shut much like the current example given by wives of politicians who inevitably stand-by-their-man at press conferences where the politician announces that he is either gay or a regular customer of an escort service or both, plus addicted to meth.

After her hockey husband, along with a friend, break into a house and end up in an unfortunate situation where a little-old-lady is unfortunately dead, the wife is presented with her own unfortunate situation of dealing with the aftermath. She could simply walk away from who turns out to be a complete career thief, but she stays, shored up by a huge dose of denial. Before his trial, she does her best to follow her husband's directives from jail. After his trial (you correctly assume the outcome), she writes, she visits, she does her best to make the conjugal visits as close to perfect as she can get. All of this is done while raising a son.

Certainly the wife's ability to survive shows her strength, that is clear, but up for debate as a reader is the question of whether or not the wife is strong or weak in her loyalty to her husband. Thus, the reader is intrinsically involved in the same decision that the wife must make, and makes on a daily basis.

This is another excellent novel from O'Nan. - 4 stars


Amanda said...

I don't find it admirable to stick by abusive, criminal husbands (or wives, or parents, or friends...). I don't find it admirable to have the strength to survive when you're forced to be a doormat. I find it admirable to have the strength to get out of situations like that and make your life better.

Amber said...

Very, very true - I agree with you completely - but somehow I found myself rooting for the woman, even the husband, which I guess is a credit to the author.

Or maybe I'm just suckered into relating to or sympathizing with whatever character(s) I'm reading.

I tend to have the same problem, if it is a problem, in real life.

Amanda said...

Oh I don't fault you for rooting for anyone in a book. I mean, Nabokov did his best to make his child predator sympathetic for the first half of Lolita...