Having read both of Lori Lansen's earlier books, Rush Home Road, and the Orange-listed The Girls, I was particularly keen to read The wife's tale, and was happy that Virago were kind enough to send me a copy to review.
This is a novel about a woman finding herself and being transformed in the process. Mary Gooch is morbidly obese; this is one of the first and most important things we learn about her. The first chapter sees her stuffing herself with food to feed the hunger within herself; we then begin to learn how the pounds piled on after the deaths of her parents, and after miscarriages, and other unhappy life events. On the face of it however, Mary doesn't seem completely unhappy - she loves her husband and they are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
The night before the wedding anniversary, Gooch, Mary's husband doesn't come home. He leaves a note saying that he has won the lottery, deposits some money in their jont account, and vanishes. Mary sets off on a journey to find him, but in the process ends up finding herself in a way that she never had the chance to do. There is trouble along the way - lost passports, unfriendly in-laws, but each time Mary manages eventually to pick herself up and start again, becoming stronger in the process. Throughout the book I was hooked to find out what would happen to Mary and whether she would find Gooch. I won't giveaway what happens at the end, suffice to say that the book concludes with Mary making a normal tuna sandwich and eating it out of hunger rather than comfort.
In some ways, Lori Lansen's writing and stories are reminiscent of those of Anne Tyler or Carol Shields, dealing with small town life in the US/Canada, but I felt that this novel had a lot more pace than either of the others. If you like Anne Tyler or Carol Shields, then do seek out Lansens, although I think that The girls, dealing with the lives of a pair of conjoined twins, is slightly more gripping due to its extremely unusual
I love books, baking and my boyfriend, and love to write about the first two. I particular love "forgotten" books, books brought out of obscurity by republication and those still languishing in obscurity. I'm currently reading my way through all of the Virago Modern Classics, but taking in other books along the way.