The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Updated: Apr 19, 2018
The Wife Between Us is the most brilliantly plotted book that I have read in a long time, and right now it would be my thriller pick for 2018. The opening chapters alternate between an older woman whose husband Richard has divorced to marry another younger woman – and a younger woman set to marry the man she loves. The older woman is a wrecked woman, a shadow of her former self, finding solace in alcohol, and obsessed with her pretty replacement. The younger woman is preparing for her wedding to Richard, but all the while she feels like someone is watching her. Richard, a hedge-fund manager, is a man who at first seems loving and caring, but as the novel progresses he becomes increasingly controlling and intimidating.
It’s impossible to say much more about this novel without giving everything away. But there is a certain point in the novel where you suddenly understand that what you have been reading isn’t what you thought it was – suddenly the viewpoint changes, so you have a completely different understanding of what you have previously read. And then there is another twist nearer the end, that perfectly brings the book to a satisfying close. The genius of The Wife Between Us is that when the reader finds out the complete truth, it is emotionally satisfying, not some cheap twist that makes no sense. The book becomes much more nuanced as the story progresses, and what you think is a novel about an older woman obsessed with her husband’s new, pretty fiance, is, in fact, a story with much deeper themes.
I was a little worried about whether two authors could write a cohesive book without it being jarring when I first started reading, but Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen have done a superb job. The Wife Between Us is very well written, with dialogue that rings true and nothing is overwritten. Both American, Greer Hendricks is a former journalist who works as an editor with Simon & Schuster in New York. Sarah Pekkanen started out as an investigative journalist and now she writes novels, and she is based in Washington DC. Both women met and decided they would like to work together. When thinking about their debut they discussed all their favourite books and realised there were similar themes – the titles were psychological in nature and possessed strong female protagonists. So they worked on Google doc, collaborating as they wrote, and met every couple of months in a hotel to spend concentrated time on the book.
The authors have done a wonderful job with character, pace, and especially the brilliant plot line, and they deserved to be congratulated on creating a masterpiece of contemporary, thriller fiction. The Wife Between Us is a first-rate read that is completely unputdownable, and emotionally fulfilling.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
But another in our team has a different opinion....
Billed as the latest in the style of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and even The Girl Before this novel sadly doesn't compete with any of those. The point of differentiation is that The Wife Between Us is constructed to lead you into a set of assumptions. It keeps doing this right down to the Epilogue, when a final twist is piled in there just for the hell of it. It is a perfectly good story but it is trying a bit too hard to be different. At its most basic this is a story of manipulation, the subtle and not so subtle manipulation of a wife by a husband in order to create his version of a perfect marriage. He seems to have missed the memo that reminds people that it is the differences we bring to relationships that makes them fun. Knowing exactly what is going to happen is no fun at all.
Richard, the husband, appears perfect; he is caring, attentive, spontaneous and generous. The reality is more sinister. He is moulding his wife into the perfect accessory, a mannequin for the latest fashionable outfit or designer handbag. Some people may be enchanted by a constant stream of expensive gifts, but the reality is that these are simply to paper over the cracks in a relationship and make up for the lack of real empathy.
Richard is ever-present, always coming home at short notice, turning up unexpectedly or being near at hand. He is cast as a successful fund manager in New York, always working late and travelling. To afford the luxury homes and designer clothes and jewels he must be successful, but his ability to always be around is at odds with the demands of that successful career.
Only once Richard's wife starts to see the way she is being manipulated will she start to emerge from his shadow and perhaps regain her lost life and personality. I won't say any more in case I give away any of those twists...
I love a good plot twist, and especially the one that creeps up on you and then keeps you awake all night wondering how you missed it. But this one is a non-event, a sort of “oh, ok” and a shrug.
Reviewer: Marcus Hobson Macmillan, RRP $34.99