Hilary is Eric Wynn's first wife --- the wife he cheated on and left to raise their son alone so he could marry Pam, known as his other wife. It's been six years since the divorce, but Hilary still hasn't quite gotten over it.
Hilary and Eric's son, Seth, is now 18 and graduating from high school. Eric and Pam, along with their daughter and Pam's son from a previous relationship, come back to Chicago for the graduation ceremony and to celebrate the occasion. This puts Hilary in an awkward situation. Eric's new wife is condescending, harsh and critical. Hilary struggles with her emotions, trying to be mature and civil for Seth's sake, yet is seething on the inside. She even resents the fact that Eric and Pam have a child together.
Seth has tried to be the “man of the house” and act as a pillar of strength for his mom since the divorce. He is angry with his dad for leaving and feels protective of his mom, but he also carries some buried resentment towards his mother for depending on him a little too much.
In keeping with tradition, after graduation, Seth and his entire graduating class plan an overnight camping trip. Hilary only agrees to this because she knows her son. She has had plenty of conversations with him about teenage temptations like alcohol and sex, and trusts that he will act responsibly during the unsupervised event. But Seth doesn't. He makes a poor decision that will impact his life forever.
The book is titled HIS OTHER WIFE, but really, it's the incident with Seth that's the main focus of this book. Yes, Hilary is dealing with her ex-husband and his wife throughout the story, but Seth's actions and the after-effects are what drive the plot. The lessons Hilary learns about herself, extending forgiveness, and relinquishing control to God directly relate to her son's life-altering event.
Deborah Bedford's style of writing took me a while to get used to. The book is written in an almost omniscient point of view, as if someone from afar is watching these characters and telling us about them. While all had sympathetic qualities, I found it somewhat difficult to truly relate to them. Growing up with divorced parents myself, I understand the pain, heartache and struggles that come with broken families. I can especially appreciate the emotional fallout, but some of the actions and motivations of the characters just didn't ring true for me. Additionally, some of the dialogue and actions seemed awkward and forced, particularly with Hilary. This possibly has to do with preference and/or personality style. Bedford has been described by other reviewers as a lyrical writer, which is more flowery and descriptive, a style many readers appreciate but that I find less enjoyable.
That said, the character I found the most likable and endearing was Seth. His storyline is gritty, interesting and fresh, from the camping event to the way he deals with the result of his poor choice. I found myself connecting with his pain and remorse, and rooting for him the whole way through. Not all of us have made a mistake as impactful as Seth does in this story, but who hasn't been in a place where they've reaped the consequences of a poor judgment call?
HIS OTHER WIFE does tackle some common issues that Christians face today, such as divorce, blended families, tragedy, trust and forgiveness, and also explores the question of where God is when bad things happen. This is something Hilary cries out to God about and eventually realizes that it is she and not God who has stepped back.
The book ends neatly, though perhaps a bit predictably, but in a way that shows how things come together once we surrender control and leave our hurts, resentments and cares in God's hands.
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on February 22, 2011