Author: Leah Stewart
Date Published: April 19, 2011
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Book Summary: Sarah Price has never regretted trading her MFA for a steady job so that her husband, Nathan, could write fiction. But at age thirty-five her world is turned upside down by a shocking revelation: Nathan's upcoming novel, Infidelity, is based in fact. Reeling from his betrayal, Sarah is plagued by dark questions. How well does she really know her husband? More important, how well does she know herself?
For answers, Sarah looks back to her artistic twenty-something self to try to understand what happened to her dreams. And so begins her quest to discover which version of herself is the essential one—the artist, wife, mother or someone else entirely—an eye-opening journey that leads Sarah hundreds of miles away from her marriage and back to herself.
Leah Stewart has written a rich, compelling, emotionally-wrought novel detailing one woman's journey after her husband confesses to cheating. Ms. Stewart takes a risk focusing her story on only one character, the wife, Sarah Price, and the impact of her husband Nathan's devastating news. The other characters in the book appear intermittently and are limited to distant secondary roles. However, we do get to know Nathan more than the others, but again, it is filtered through Sarah.
Sarah is an intelligent, interesting woman with a great sense of humor. She's the kind of woman many of us would like to have as a friend. In this case, however, we'd have to imagine our friend if her husband admitted to cheating on her, since Sarah is irascible and crabby throughout. But, periodically, we are treated to glimpses of the happier, more care-free woman Sarah used to be, making her current situation resonate all the more. Ms. Stewart has successfully created an authentic woman in Sarah's character, someone with whom many of us can identify. Sarah is a typical middle class American woman: a working mother of two with a mortgage and credit card debt. She cannot imagine her life without Nathan yet she's not sure she wants him around anymore, so it makes sense that she feels like her life is falling apart. Sarah becomes known to us, then, not just through actions, but also through introspection like this. Often this kind of writing, where almost all the time is spent with one character, either following her activities or in her head, gets dry and monotonous. Not in Husband and Wife. Ms. Stewart keeps Sarah's thoughts sharp, agile, and unpredictable at times, keeping us turning the pages.
Sarah's instinct, after processing, and then absorbing, Nathan's bombshell, is to work things out and remain an intact family. I was slightly surprised by this reaction. Like Sarah, I didn't realize that emotionally she was still struggling to cope with Nathan's words. In less than 36 hours, once her emotions kick in, Sarah can't stand to look at Nathan and wants him out of the house. Sarah is all too human and, at this point, her next step is anyone's guess. She's struggling with feelings of confusion, doubt and intense hurt. She also has responsibilities and children to care for which is difficult when all Sarah wants, understandably is to wallow in self-pity, yell and run far away.
I'm not going to say much more about Husband and Wife because I don't want to give away the story which is worth experiencing for yourself. I will tell you that Sarah takes the opportunity provided by Nathan's infidelity to determine who she is and what she wants out of life. You might not like that she uses his behavior as an excuse to act selfishly but she's not the first woman to make questionable decisions when hurt emotionally. The choices she makes and the journey she follows, literally and figuratively, may make you want to shake Sarah and ask her: "what are you dong?!", but that is only because we care about Sarah. Ms. Stewart has successfully developed Sarah to be a woman whose life we feel emotionally invested in and for whom we want a good outcome. We may not agree with or like all of Sarah's choices but we can say the same about our friends and even ourselves. As such, we can't help but want to tag along with Sarah and root for her to come out of it all a better person.
To be able to write what is essentially a one character novel whose success or failure is going to be based on Sarah's development and no one else's, the story line being a secondary concern, is big gamble. And I'm happy to report that Ms. Stewart's effort works and Husband and Wife is a more than satisfactory story. This is a powerful read that lets you feel like you've been through something real. I highly recommend this book. Husband and Wife would make a terrific choice for book clubs, too.
I want to say thank you to TLC Book Tours for giving me a copy of this book and the opportunity to read and review Husband and Wife.
For more on Husband and Wife, see Leah Stewart's website.