But I have to say, there's a new chick lit in town, and it's the woman/dysfunctional marriage/drama/maybe someone will die/oh there's a twist sub-genre. I think it's still chick lit, but a much darker side. These novels are definitely written with a female audience in mind: Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Woman in Cabin Ten...you get the picture.
My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry fits into that category, but it is different from the other novels I've mentioned above. It sounded intriguing, so when I received a review copy, I dove right in without thinking too much about what to expect. This was the perfect way to approach this story, because there's no way I would have been even close to guessing what would happen--and a lot happens.
The novel starts with someone's murder. Just a short blip, but enough to tell you to hang on for an interesting ride. Move back fifteen years, and we meet Lily and Ed, two newlyweds living in London. They've just come back from an Italian honeymoon after a whirlwind courtship, and Lily has to go back to work as a lawyer. Ed works in advertising, and desperately wants to be an artist. Their relationship is very new, and very awkward. It's pretty clear Lily and Ed have some work to do if they want this marriage to last. Lily's boss has moved Lily to a different kind of law work: she's been assigned the case of a prisoner in jail who's been convicted of murdering his girlfriend, but wants to appeal. Lily is in no way ready for this, but has no choice--she needs her job (Ed isn't a very good breadwinner). She visits the jail, and meets the enigmatic Joe Thomas. Mild mannered looking, he reminds Lily of her adopted brother Daniel, and that's where the fatal attraction begins. Joe is not all he seems; Lily quickly becomes deeply entangled in his appeal and upcoming court case. Meanwhile, Ed struggles to find his muse, and the tension between the two is painful!
Enter little Carla and her mother Francesca. They live in the same apartment building as Lily and Ed; Francesca is a sales clerk and Carla is a deeply unhappy little girl who's bullied at school for her dark Italian looks and her lapses into speaking Italian during the day. Francesca's got a sugar daddy, and Carla figures out how to use his desire to keep certain things secret in order to transfer to another school, get a bike, and get her way in a lot of things.
Ed and Lily's life intersects with Carla and you just know things are going to get bad. And they do...but not for 15 years. Move forward 15 years; Lily is a successful lawyer, Ed tries to be a successful artist. He's actually just an alcoholic. Marriage is still intact, but so dysfunctional it's no wonder Lily works all the time. They have a son, Tom, who is such a challenge that he's another added stress. Joe Thomas is still in the picture, lurking....why won't he leave Lily alone? I know....but you're going to have to read the book.
Carla arrives back in their lives. She's now 23, gorgeous, and has a giant grudge. She wants what Lily has, and does her best to get it. You know what they say about the grass is always greener? Well, Carla gets to find out if that's true.
There are so many twists in this story that you're never quite sure what's going to happen next. Everyone has a secret; Lily has more than a few. She's a good person trapped by a few little lies that turned into potentially life-destroying secrets. No one here (besides Joe) is really a bad person. Circumstances and poor choices made them what they are; those choices keep propelling them all towards an inevitable nightmarish crash. Yes, you are on the roller coaster until the very last page. What a ride.
I was totally surprised by this book in a very good way. All of the characters are flawed and every one of them have issues from their pasts that drive them to do destructive things. It's a tale of revenge, opportunity, lust, frustration, and that sense of being trapped and feeling helpless to get out. But there are ways to get out...
Thank you to Penguin/Viking for a review copy. Wow! This was a really good read, and refreshingly different in the female thriller/dark chick lit genre. You'll find yourself thinking about it long after you've turned the last page. It would make a really good book club choice!
Rating: 8/10 for a tangled weave of past and present, deadly secrets, destruction, and a marriage that struggles under the weight of two flawed people.
Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio.