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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch

In this issue:


Catherine Ries reviews The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. Every woman of ability who has nurtured an 'important' man will find this story both familiar and frustrating.

And Consider This

Getting Along (almost) With Your Adult Kids by PhDs Lois and Joel R. Davitz: Bonds forged between parent and child are strong enough to bend and stretch to accommodate each new stage of our lives and theirs.


The Wife
a novel by Meg Wolitzer
Scribner, 219 pp

The irony of Meg Wolitzer's "The Wife" is that for the first three-fourths of the book, we learn much more about the husband, Joe, a self-centered, expansive man who "owns the world," than we do about his wife, Joan. We don't really get to know the woman narrating this story until nearly the end of the novel.

Joan is a woman of considerable talent who has given up a chance at a writing career to devote herself to her husband and his success. She begins her story by telling us that she decided to end her forty-year marriage to Joe while accompanying him on a flight to Helsinki to accept a prestigious literary prize. During this quiet flight, and at an apparently peaceful and successful period in their marriage, Joan decides "enough."

Wolitzer's careful peeling away of the layers of their marriage reveals a complex and unstated agreement between this aging couple. Joan tells us of the beginning of their relationship at Smith College, he as a charming professor and she as a smitten student, and of the years of their marriage and his growing fame. She invites us to examine her actions and failures to act through the filter of social attitudes and limitations faced by women in the world of journalism in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Every woman of ability who has nurtured an 'important' man will find this story both familiar and frustrating. How much is too much to give, and how little is too little to ask in return?

This is, by nature, a sad and thoughtful tale, but Wolitzer's unexpected flashes of humor keep the story from becoming simply depressing. The "shocking" ending should come as no real surprise to the reader, but it is exciting and ultimately satisfying.

The Wife is a quick, enjoyable read, with food for thought and self-examination.

Review of Getting Along (almost) With Your Adult Kids>>



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© 2003 Catherine Ries for SeniorWomenWeb

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