One thing I didn't expect when I started THE WIFE'S TALE was that it would be a diet book. No, I don't mean there are any hidden weight loss secrets here. When Mary Gooch finally looks up from the daily rut she has happily created for herself, she begins shedding pounds that accumulated from loss, stress, sadness, boredom and her marriage.
On the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, Mary's husband Jimmy --- affectionately known as “Gooch” --- doesn't come home. Mary isn't worried at first, able to stave off any concern by making the well-known trip to the kitchen to satisfy her anxiety with food. In fact, she is more worried about what she is going to wear to their anniversary dinner than she is about her husband’s whereabouts. Gooch has always been there, and she just expects that he will walk through the door any minute.
But when Gooch doesn't come home, Mary begins looking back at her life and marriage. When they married, Mary was young, thin and pregnant. The night before the wedding, she miscarried but didn't tell anyone until after the ceremony. She never told her husband when the miscarriage occurred and wonders all these years later if he would have still married her armed with that knowledge. Over the years, Mary and Gooch left many things unsaid and she was happy with that arrangement. It was easier to bury things than to talk about them. She realizes she never thought of her husband as comfort; her comfort was food (and lots of it).
Mary finally rallies and goes in search of Gooch. She makes phone calls, and even goes to see a woman she believes may be Gooch's lover. She doesn't find anything --- no mistress and no answers --- but she does find $25,000 in the bank account that Gooch left for her. With no idea what to do, she leaves her small town in Canada and makes the bold decision to get on a plane and go to California believing that her husband may be visiting his mother who lives there.
On her journey, Mary realizes that she no longer hears the “Siren's Call of the Kenmore.” She hasn't eaten in days with the exception of a few apples and health bars to sustain her. The hunger is no longer driving her, but she has yet to figure out what really is. Woefully unprepared for her trip --- she hasn't taken any clothing, only a large stash of cash --- she soon finds herself in a foreign country without any means of support. What she does find is unexpected and something she never imagined --- a life.
The beginning of the book is sad. More than once I wanted to abandon it. It's a tale of an obese, sad woman stuck in a rut she calls her life. She never looked around her unless there was food to be found. She isn't happy, she doesn't care about herself, and while she loves her husband, it's obvious she loves food more. I felt so bad for Mary that I didn't want to keep going. It's when she finally begins to move that you not only start liking her, you also cheer for her. She almost stops thinking and moves on impulse, chasing her husband and a life she didn't know she could have.
It's the kindness of strangers that picks up Mary and the story. Mary has few friends in her small town in Canada, she doesn't go out, doesn't read the paper, and has almost no concept of the world outside her door. When she goes searching for her husband, she starts seeing herself and life. She carried a lot of weight and sadness with her and finally begins letting go and moving past disappointments that she comforted in the past with pie and cake. Many things still go unsaid in this book, but you, along with Mary, come to an understanding with it.
Lori Lansens traps the reader in the story before one realizes it. I wanted to walk away but couldn't. I didn't feel I could abandon Mary even if I felt so bad I wanted to turn my back and not watch her fall apart. Lansens doesn't let you flounder too long and thankfully pulls Mary into a new world full of wonder and possibilities.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on July 7, 2011
The Wife’s Tale