THE SUNDAY WIFE is a compelling, moving, poignant novel that speaks to the vicissitudes of marriage, the ebb and flow of friendships, the delicate balance of maintaining one's integrity in a small community, and the necessity of claiming those things that make each of us a whole self. Cassandra King's second novel is so near perfect that it reads like a symphony, each note following the other in perfect pitch.
In Dean, the narrator, she has created a character who is at times funny, sad, ridiculous, pitiful, strong, talented and inspiring. On the one hand, she represents the plight of too many women trapped in lives of quiet desperation; and on the flip side, she is so full of life and love that we can't help but cheer her on as she makes her way across the canvas of her life.
Dean is married to Ben, an ambitious Methodist preacher who, for more then 20 years, has taken his wife for granted. Early in their marriage he cast her in the narrow, circumscribed role of a pastor's wife, never once consulting her about anything. To his way of thinking, only his selfish, self-serving needs coupled with the expectations his parishioners project onto her are all she needs in her life. She is a woman of low self-esteem who has deferred to his whims and strong will all of her married life --- until he is promoted to a new parish in Crystal Springs, Florida.
"With the moving van a few minutes behind us, we pulled our cars, me following Ben --- a metaphor for our life together --- into the driveway of our new house."
A few weeks after settling in, Dean meets Augusta Holderfield, a rich, flamboyant, rebellious rule breaker and falls under her spell.
As the novel unfolds around this oddly matched pair of women, King introduces us to the movers and shakers of Ben's new congregation: the gossips and troublemakers whose lives revolve around petty disputes and childish backstabbing. Of course, Dean pays dearly for her deep friendship with and dependence on the notorious Augusta. When the two women, who are outcasts by nature, take a Gypsy fortuneteller named Celeste under their wing, the reputations of all three are blackened as they are infamously linked together.
SUNDAY WIFE is a beautifully crafted novel; the prose is clear, the characters are extraordinarily limned, the situations so realistic that readers will think they are reading about themselves or their neighbors. We all know people who resemble the characters in SUNDAY WIFE; which is one of the most intriguing elements of the book. One can only hope that Cassandra King is already working on the sequel. Enjoy this wonderful book, which is sure to become one of your best reads this year.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 23, 2011