Eric Jerome Dickey is finally starting to get his due. He has weathered the unfortunate label of "black author" and has simply become known as an author, and a very good one. His characters are mostly black, true, and there are even some real "African-Americans" in THE OTHER WOMAN (there's an Ethiopian immigrant, for one) but the concerns he writes about in THE OTHER WOMAN can affect anyone, of any race. Still, I don't think that anyone can write about them quite the way Dickey can.
THE OTHER WOMAN is told from the point of view of Freckles, a television newswriter who is married to Charles, a middle school teacher. Their situation is, I think, fairly common: they both work, they're on somewhat different schedules, and they are all too often like ships passing (and occasionally and hurriedly bumping) in the night. Things aren't bad between them, not by any means, but they're maybe a little too ... complacent. They're in a content and comfortable, if not exciting, groove.
That at least is what Freckles believes until she begins receiving frantic calls from David Lawrence. Lawrence has a tale to tell: his wife, Jessica, is having a torrid affair with Charles. Freckles confronts Charles, who admits the affair but downplays his emotional involvement, even as he is confronted with the truth that the affair has been carried out over the course of eight months. Lawrence has proof in the form of instant messages between the two lovers that are explosive in their content. Lawrence, perhaps the most complex character in THE OTHER WOMAN, has an agenda of his own. Hurting and humiliated, he uses Freckles as an instrument of revenge against both his wife and her paramour. The conclusion is explosive but no less shocking in its inevitability.
Dickey does an incredible job here. I don't think I've ever read a novel by a male writer who has done such an excellent job of getting into a woman's psyche. I'm not sure if I can describe this correctly, but here it goes. There are those areas of a woman's emotions that a man has some difficulty understanding. Dickey gets the description of those emotions just right. But where a man would ordinarily try to explain those and break them down to be understood, Dickey does not. Dickey, in the literary sense, understands what Wynton Marsalis has stated in the musical sense: that what is not played is often as important as what is played. This doesn't mean Dickey neglects the guys, however. The guys react as males will do. Do they ever.
One other thing. Dickey does not exactly shirk away from graphic sexual descriptions. While he is not subtle in his descriptions, however, he is never gratuitous. THE OTHER WOMAN reads as if Dickey spent some quality time talking with women about what they want and want they need. Oh, one other thing. If there is a sudden run on the Altoids 12-packs at the local Sam's Club, it's because of THE OTHER WOMAN. And gentlemen, an extensive field study I conducted recently indicates that it works both ways, if you're interested in giving as good as you get.
THE OTHER WOMAN is a book about women and men --- and is for both. Dickey just gets better and better at what he does and is finally getting the widespread recognition he deserves. This is one book that everyone needs to check out, for many reasons.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 29th, 2003.
The Other Woman