The Wife by Alafair Burke, 3.5 stars

I started reading Mary Higgins Clark books in grade school. I’m pretty sure it was 5th grade. Which, as the mom of a 10-year-old, baffles me a little. He has no interest in reading adult books yet, although I feel like there are definitely more compelling books being written for tweens and young adults these days. We had The Babysitter’s Club, R.L. Stine,  Christopher Pike, and they were all great, but for a voracious reader, I needed more!

And to be fair, Mary Higgins Clark books, while not completely suitable for a child, were pretty clean. Most of the romantic relationships are PG and even the heroines dress conservatively. I remember wondering what “slacks” were, because the characters in her books are always wearing “slacks” and “pullovers” and other types of clothing that seem stuffy at best. But of course, that is part of the Mary Higgins Clark charm.

I can proudly say I have read every single one of her books, and many over and over again. Weep No More My Lady was my favorite for years. I probably read it 20 times.

Okay, maybe I never could get into the collaborations with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, but those were also mostly Christmas themed and I’m not so into those types of books unless they are written by Elin Hilderbrand. I’m not sure why she is the exception, but she is!

But extremely longish post short, I got turned on to Alafair Burke when she started writing with Mary Higgins Clark (or rather for as Ms. Clark has quite impressively reached the age of 90!). And I really liked those books, they filled the Mary Higgins Clark sized hole in my heart.

So I gave Alafair Burke a try on her own. And I love her books too! They are similar to Mary Higgins Clark books, but with less slacks and pullovers.

From the Publisher:

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look at the man she married. And when she is asked to defend Jason in court, she realizes that her loyalty to her husband could unearth old secrets.

My Review:

First of all, I must say, the topic of this book is very timely with the “Me Too” movement. And I know from working in publishing that this is mostly a lucky coincidence, as the book must have been planned and in the works long before the movement recently took off, although let’s face it, the subject of power and sexual abuse is definitely not a new one.

Even the title, The Wife, for me, tied into “The Good Wife”, which is also based on power and sex. But these stories are complex because many of us wonder how a wife can stand by her husband when he is the accused, or even just how that feels. Does she feel shame, embarrassment, anger, betrayal? Some combination of them all? There just isn’t an easy way out.

Best case scenario, he is completely innocent. There are always people who will doubt that and accuse a wife of taking her husband’s side over her gender’s side. And if he’s guilty? What does that mean for the marriage? What has been happening behind closed doors? It’s no one’s business, but that has never stopped speculation.

When a prominent man is accused of abusing his power or even just having an affair, there is no easy way out for that man’s wife. A life is changed, a dream is shattered.

And this is definitely the case for Angela, the heroine in our story. When he is accused of sexual misconduct with an intern, she staunchly stands behind her husband, a man who has lifted her from a life she has kept hidden. He saved her and her son, just like prince charming. But her dream life has turned into a nightmare.

But as new allegations surface, it becomes harder and harder for the reader to understand her devotion. And as it becomes apparent that she has quite a few skeletons in her own closet, the reader really wonders who they should trust.

This book was a page-turner! As I read it, my loyalties switched back and forth several times. And I didn’t know who to trust or who was telling the truth. Some books are good all the way through and collapse at the end. That was definitely not the case for this one. It had a truly satisfying ending for me as the pieces of the puzzle fell into place And I liked it more after I read the first page than I did when I was 90% through the book.

And guess what? Burke may have left room for a sequel. Or just enough for the reader to ponder on.

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