Domestic suspense or snoozefest? The Wife between Us Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

9:21:00 AM

Reading Challenge: Thriller on the NYT bestseller list


Alright, I don't feel like writing this review, but this Reading Challenge also means I'll have to force myself to review every book. The Wife between Us written by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen introduces Vanessa,  a woman who after her divorce starts obsessing over the new women in her ex-husband Richard's life. Vanessa drinks too much, she has let herself go, etc. Sorry for the etc. but I just can't be bothered.
The story switches between Vanessa and Nellie, the fearful girl that Richard is about to marry. From then on, things start to flip, and twist and all those things that thrillers are supposed to do. I know, this review is lackluster, and I just checked Goodreads where people are screaming Wows and Amazing, so if you want an upbeat review you know where to find it.
The Wife between Us gets the usual  comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Of course. The moment you have a female narrator with an unreliable voice, a story that twists and turns, the marketing people are happy to point the reader in that direction: 'See, you love those, buy this! This is the new one to fill the void the last one left!'
It sells, but it won't help the reader enjoy the book.
It does a disservice to GG and the Girl on the Train, and if it doesn't live up to it, it'll pinpoint to the book's flaws.
Gone Girl captured a recognizable female voice in those first chapters, you could empathize with Amy, or at least you knew a women just like her. The twists were intelligent, harking on to the prejudice we have, playing around with contemporary conversations on men and women. The Girl on the Train worked because it conveyed the loneliness and desperation of the protagonist and her obsession was original and familiar (if you ever commuted on a train, you probably have wondered about the people and houses you passed by everyday).
But The Wife between Us doesn't live up to his predecessors. You guessed right, It didn't like it. At all. I always hate saying that about a book.  So I'll rip the bandage and get it over with.
The female voice, the protagonist, was not a contemporary one. I kept asking who the hell this woman was. From here on light spoilers, so beware.
Why is she still stuck in the nineties, when everyone moved on? Remember those movies about abused women, with Julia Roberts or maybe Goldie Hawn where the big reveal is that the husband is not who you think he is? The Wife between Us is more in line with those movies, only those were at least scary.
The twist and turns are very easy to figure out, especially the first one, and seemed more gratuitous than to serve the story, especially the last one, instead of pulling the rug at the end it just fizzled.
Furthermore for a domestic suspense something important is missing: no one dies, no one disappears, there's nothing to solve and the violence is almost glanced over. Bad chicklit, nothing more.
When you write about an abused woman you have make a person out of her, not a cliché. Give her some agency, make her relatable, Vanessa was just meek, without reason, and the villain of The Wife between Us wasn't fleshed out at all. Maybe if you don't see the twists coming you'll enjoy this one, people seem to do, maybe if you never seen Gaslight, or heard about if. Or heard anything ever about domestic abuse. Skipped Big Little Lies. Never saw Sleeping with the Enemy.
The wife between Us won't tell you anything new. It was an irritating read for me.
Anyway on to the next. I'll do my best to find a good one this time.

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