Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Literally the Best Reviews: The Starter Wife

The Starter Wife - Nina Laurin
Grand Central Publishing
352 Pages

It seems as though the psychological thrillers are the genre du jour right now. After a series of such books, I find myself reading yet another one. This time, The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin is the winner of the week. These books just keep getting better and better. This one is no different. I was on the edge of my seat from the beginning, and absolutely did not see the ending coming until much later in the book than I usually do. That makes this a great book, in my opinion.

Claire Westcott is a writer, married to Bryon. He is a professor of literature at a college in Ohio. She is a full time writer, working from home to finally write the next Great American Novel. Byron is a widower whose first wife, Colleen, died under mysterious circumstances. While he was initially suspected in her death, there was nothing to tie him to her disappearance. Several years later, he remarried to Claire.

After several years of marriage, Claire thinks her marriage has entered the doldrums, and he’s notas interested in her as he used to be. The flame for his first wife could still be smoldering. While she’s questioning the status of her marriage, a phone call startles her when the woman at the other end asks what she did with it. “It” probably is one of the paintings that Colleen painted that used to hang over the bed. Immediately, Claire wonders if the long lost first wife is not actually dead.

Here the book takes off on a psychological thrill ride that has a series of twists and turns that will keep you trying to guess who the bad guy is. The reader will vacillate between several people, thinking that you’ve gotten it all worked out. Towards the end, someone’s narrative starts to unravel and the truth finally comes out. Along the way, you will wonder if certain people are even real or a psychotic illusion. 

Nina Laurin has the reader enter the mind of a person who twists reality to their own devices, to whatever will give them the outcome they want. As the walls of fantasy are broken down and reality crashes in, the demeanor of the character begins to falter. Like a leaking dam, that tiny trickle soon leads to a complete collapse.  The development of this character from the beginning until the end is a masterpiece to read.

One of the most intriguing parts of the novel is when social media posts about Bryon and the death of his first wife are posted. People feel compelled to write things about which they have no understanding. And if you disagree with their point of view, it’s a series of bashing the other person. This is an absolute mirror of real life where people feel the need to comment on things, believing that they know the story. Instead, they embarrass themselves and make themselves look like fools with their holier than thou attitudes. Laurin’s take on this aspect of social media is spot on.

The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin is an excellent book. I re-evaluated my thoughts on the cause of all of Claire’s troubles repeatedly throughout the time I read it. I went to places that Laurin probably never even had in mind while she was writing this. Doesn’t that signify a great book, when you imagine all the possibilities? Even the ones that aren’t on the page? Take some time while hanging out in semi-isolation and read a good book. This is one you could definitely read.

Craig Bacon only has ever had one wife. The starter model was perfect for him.