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Readers' Comments for How to be a Good Wife

In September, a select group of readers who participated in one of our Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlights won copies of HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE by Emma Chapman. It’s the story of good wife Marta, who has been married for so long that she can hardly remember a past without Hector. But now strange visions flit at the corner of her eye, including that of a blonde girl no one else can see. Is she losing her mind, or is she starting to remember something important? Take a look at some of the readers' comments for more insight into this intense psychological thriller ---  and be sure to watch out for SPOILERS!

Brandi --- This comment contains mild SPOILERS.
I don't normally read in the suspense/thriller genre, so I was intrigued to be able to try something new! I do have several friends who would enjoy this book, so I am definitely recommending it to them. I would describe it as a psychological rollercoaster from start to finish!  

When I began reading this book, it gave me chills. None of the characters were to be fully trusted and even at the end I had trouble sorting out what was truth and what was invented. I felt like I was on the journey with Marta to find herself through the web of hallucinations, medications and forgotten memories. I didn't like Hector at all --- he crept around the house and was patronizing and controlling. The book left me with more questions than answers. When Marta finally makes up her mind to leave everything, you wonder if she really can make it out in the world on her own.  Are the "ghosts" she is seeing real or a product of her imagination? I was so frustrated with her son for not digging deeper into her accusations of Hector, but he had been told all his life (and had seen for himself) how unstable his mother was. I'm not sure he really cared as long as she was someone else's problem. He moved away to the city with his new job and his focus is on the marriage to his fiancée. I was really infuriated with him for not even going to see if the secret room was under the house!

Throughout the book, I wanted Marta to escape and to find happiness. If it was true about what Hector had done, I wanted that to be found out and him to be punished. It was frustrating at the end because you felt like Hector got away with it and Marta was still the victim. It left me unsettled, nervous and a bit disturbed --- all the ingredients of a perfect suspense thriller!

HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE by Emma Chapman was a tense, suspenseful read. You wonder from the very beginning if Marta is having a nervous breakdown after her only son leaves to live in the city. But when she sees a young girl appear in her house, you begin to suspect that there is something sinister going on. She frequently quotes from the "manual" her mother-in-law gave her when she married her husband, Hector. HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE seems to have been written in the 1940s or ‘50s. And Marta is having a hard time being the perfect submissive wife.

I would recommend this book to readers who like psychological suspense. There is a mystery, but it is revealed very slowly until the last few chapters. It is a somewhat scary book, especially if you have ever experienced something that no one will believe.

It was a good read, one that I had a hard time putting down.

I really enjoyed this book and would have finished it in one sitting had life pushed pause for me to do so. From page one, the voice in HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE draws you in. Told from Marta's point of view, this enthralling psychological thriller has you guessing at the truth, and the turns of the story keep changing what you think is “real” as the chapters fly by. Commonly, readers complain about the endings to such books, but Emma Chapman brilliantly tied up the story without dragging out the last chapters needlessly. I was pleasantly surprised, and I recommend this new writer as one to follow!

Well, quite a good book for the first time. It was a little bit slow at the beginning, but that was just to get you into the right mood. I found the book hard to put down. The author never let her guard down. You knew that Marta was having some mental difficulties but never to what extent. Her life with Hector was a sham, but why? Her visions were so real and she knew it, but she just couldn't break away from Hector or herself. You knew that her son was going to have a life of his own, but luckily for her, he was there for her. I think her son did believe her (?), but because he had investigated an abduction and found nothing, he also wasn't a 100% sure.

I already referred this book to my sister to read and see if she would like to refer this to her book club. I'm going to be taking this to my own book club. I could only describe this book as well-written and "oh my gosh."

I must say I did not enjoy the beginning of this book. I do not enjoy reading about women who are manipulated by others. But I kept on reading, and I am glad I did because it all made sense as to why Marta acted as she did. I enjoy thrillers because as the story unfolds you do not know how it will end until the final pages. I like to be surprised. I will definitely read other books by Emma Chapman.

I would suggest this book to readers who enjoy a thought provoking read where you don’t know how story will end until you read the final pages.  

Marta does everything for her husband, Hector, by the book, literally. When she first married Hector, she received the book HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE from her domineering mother in law. Marta and Hector have been married a very long time and have a son Kylan. Marta is a loner. Her husband does not think highly of her and her only pleasure in life is her son, who moved away once he finished University. Marta misses him desperately and decides that she is going to stop taking the medication her husband insists she take. Once, when Kylan was younger, she stopped taking her medication and Kylan was more attentive to her. Kylan and his girlfriend are coming over for dinner and she hopes that Kylan will see she needs him and he will move back home.

It has been a few months since she stopped her medication and she starts seeing visions of a blond girl. Marta does not know who this girl is but after a while she wonders if she knows the girl. Marta is also starting to realize that she does not know her own history. Hector tells people things about Marta’s life before she met him, but she wonders if it is what actually happened or if Hector is making it up.

I just finished the book HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE. Wow! Such a page-turner!!! I was drawn in immediately from the start and could hardly put it down!!! Ms. Chapman did a marvelous job in putting you right inside Marta’s head, which at times was a very eerie place! The story development took just the right twists and turns, so that I started off thinking Marta was really “off her rocker” and slowly got to the point that I felt like she was the strongest of all of them. I liked the open ending and have pondered different ways that the story could go from there. I love it when a book leaves me thinking!!

I will be passing this book around to my reading friends!  Thanks so much for sharing!!!

Winter in Scandinavia --- I felt the weight of a dark, foggy gloom not unlike the life Marta seems to live. The story is told by Marta; the only views of other characters are through her eyes, so it is difficult to discern reality from illusion --- a wonderful device used by Emma Chapman. 

To deal with her reality, Marta references her book on how to be a good wife, a role she feels she must fulfill. Yet I wondered, does being a good wife mean having total blind trust in a husband who has been so devoted? Does this book become her guide to survival? It grounds her and ties her to her function as Hector’s wife, yet it seems to confine her as well, which seems to be exactly what Hector wants. The questions kept coming and I was captivated to continue reading in an attempt to find answers for me… and for Marta.

Emma Chapman manages to delve deep into the human psyche in matters of trust and belief, of those who control and those who are controlled. I was surprised more than once by Marta’s actions in response to others as well as her own realizations. I continued to marvel at her newfound strength and resolve even through to the end.I liked and enjoyed this book. It is definitely not a light read, nor a happy, touchy feely book. I would recommend it to those who like a book they cannot put down and who are deep thinkers who like to continue absorbing and analyzing long after they finish reading.

This story grabbed my interest from the very beginning. Such a title is not something the modern woman would pick up, thinking it a book only someone from the ‘50s or ‘60s would read. Chapman's opening paragraph immediately sets the stage. Smoke and mirrors. Real or unreal. Sane or insane? Sneaking a cigarette behind your husband's back can't be a part of the rules set out in the book. Tapping the ashes into an antique sugar bowl, a gift from her mother-in-law, says volumes about their relationship. "The fear of being caught is like a familiar darkness: I breathe it in with the smoke,” sets the stage for the rest of the story. Will she be caught not taking her pills? Is she caught in a narrow, make believe life? Is she caught up in insanity? Will she be caught by a sinister stranger?  

I liked the gray areas this book created. You are never sure if Marta is actually crazy, or if there is a plot by her husband to make her feel crazy and keep her under control. This vague grayness continues clear until the end. Are Hector and Kylan the sane stabilizers in her life? When you look at Marta from their perspective, you can certainly understand their actions. But the story is told in Marta's voice, so you are continually kept off balance yourself of who is really crazy or sinister. 

I didn't read this book quickly, so I felt that the middle was bogged down with sameness. Yet it immediately began to pick up speed as Marta leaves the house and drives to the city to try and reclaim her memories. How appropriate that the pace of this book mirrors the pace of the mind as it struggles to identify reality from unreality, sanity from insanity. Time slows as one feels trapped in an identity one is not totally comfortable with, nor sure about.  

Conformity is such a theme here, as Marta is given the book with its instructions on how to be a good wife from a disapproving mother-in-law to a far too young, un-molded daughter-in-law. Conformity has kept her safe and secure, yet so limited and constrained and absent from the variety life can offer.  

The reader can expand the "rules" on how to be a good wife in Marta's home to "rules" she must apply to her state of mind. Such as:

1. The "make your home a place of peace and order" is successfully accomplished on the outside, but Marta's interior sense of place is anything but peaceful and orderly. 

2. "You must persevere when cleaning glass, mirrors, or silver. The smudges cling on: they do not want to be removed." There are secret smudges on Marta's perfect life, and it takes great perseverance on her part to discover and understand them.

I enjoyed not only the storyline, but also the way the story was told and the quality of the writing. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good psychological puzzle and thriller that keeps you guessing. The ending is at the same time frustrating, yet appropriate.

Kay --- This comment contains SPOILERS.
Early on, after a few pages of Marta's descriptions, I could at least understand her, although I did not especially like her because I guess I'm too impatient...wanting people to be more realistic. Marta seemed like someone who was caught up too much with her feelings. I don't think that the author wanted us to be too sympathetic with her, at first.  

After learning of her creepy husband's manipulations I did feel more sympathetic...I really liked it that Marta finally made a break with him. Let's face it…he was a louse.

The author used so much description that, I guess, was needed to set the stage for the final betrayal by the husband. So much description at the beginning of the book almost made me quit reading.  

I did not see a section at the beginning that grabbed me and made me want to keep on reading. However, then I saw that circumstances were being added and I needed to know the answers to Marta's former life, Hector's role in it, the ghost...The ending was a surprise when Marta was finally free and Hector got his comeuppance. Hooray! Then I felt for Marta.

I'm not sure I would recommend this book to my friends --- maybe if they were in a patient mood.

Mona --- This comment contains SPOILERS.
I'm not sure what to say about this book. It's well written, and the author has done a good job of evoking scenes and moods. But I personally didn't care for it much --- certain types of psychological novels aren't my "type" of book. Also, wasn't sure if she was really hallucinating or if Hector had really kidnapped her and drugged her all those years. His small smile at the corner of his mouth indicates that that part is true. But still she is "seeing" her former self, and has quit taking her meds, so not I wasn’t sure. Then she goes and drowns herself at the end. So I don't know who I would recommend it to --- maybe one of my sisters-in-law, who does like that type of book, but I’m not sure. 

I am always willing to try a book by a new author (either newly-published or just new-to-me), and enjoy the possibility of discovering a good read. Unfortunately, HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE did not meet that expectation. Fortunately, that is due to personal preference rather than any faults on the part of the author. The protagonist is depressed, and has long been medicated for psychological conditions. Her mood permeates the story --- which was the problem. Her personality did not come through for me, despite the developments that ensued when she stopped taking her medications, and I never felt invested in what she was doing and what she might discover. The mystery surrounding that information might have been kept from her, and the reason she keeps seeing an unkempt girl (who might or might not be real), did not pique my curiosity enough to counterbalance my lack of interest in the protagonist. I found myself skimming in order to “finish” the book and move on. 

Despite the above complaints, I can truthfully say that the book is well written, and that the details that I found oppressive are likely to appeal to other readers. Fans of Laura Lippman come to mind, because several of her stand-alone books have had a similar atmosphere --- and her series character was depressed also. I belong to a mystery reading group, and will share this with the other members.

I wish I could say how much I enjoyed reading this book. However, I found it to be endlessly boring. Poorly written with sections that were hard to believe. For instance, how could our main character drive from a village she has not left for 25 years and go to her son in the city where she hadn't been to? Also Marta leaving the wedding, getting on a bus with little money, all while under supervision was farfetched. I was very happy to have spent an afternoon reading, but happier to finish.