Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review: THE WIFE BETWEEN US

Title: The Wife Between Us
Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Pages: 352






The very title attracted me to this book. I knew, on reading the blurb, that it would be a rewarding thriller, and the Prologue made good on the promise. It showed an ex-wife stalking the beautiful woman who has replaced her in her former husband’s affections.

As we read the book, we become aware that Nellie is engaged to be married to Richard Thompson, hedge fund manager, and incredibly rich, and that Vanessa, Richard’s ex-wife, is determined not to let the marriage be solemnised.

Now divorced, Vanessa works as a sales attendant at Saks, lives with her mother’s sister, Aunt Charlotte, and has a drinking problem. 

Nellie is a pre-school teacher, who also waitresses at a downscale café. She is the only daughter of her divorced parents.



The story comes to us in the first person present tense point of view of Vanessa, the ex-wife, and the 3rd person past tense point of view of Nellie, the girl friend. 

The dual perspectives in different tenses help us to engage with the two characters in different ways. With Vanessa’s present tense, we know that she will be the one to upset Nellie’s world; with Nellie’s past tense, we learn that she is the one to whom things will happen.

And while we wait for Vanessa to upturn Nellie’s world, we find that our own has been upturned.



The jealous ex-wife, the naïve fiancée and the virtuous, loving husband are at the heart of this triangle, that’s how we see it, until our assumptions, every single one of them, get torn to shreds.


For nothing is as it appears in this book. And so while the stereotypical old name, Nellie, might conjure images of a naïve waif, Nellie has her own baggage, something that causes her to have nightmares and to sleep with deadbolts on her door.

Vanessa sounds very sophisticated, and yet she was scorned by her husband. But she is no victim. She can barely hold it together. She has a drinking problem and it is overwhelming her. She is in danger of losing her salesgirl job at Saks.


At first, we don’t know what went wrong between Vanessa and Richard; just that there was some deceit on the part of Vanessa that caused the rift. Vanessa’s failure to get pregnant for the 6th time causes Richard to drift apart. 

He blames her drinking habit and then he learns that she had been pregnant back in college, a fact that she failed to mention to him.



I liked the seamless manner in which the flashbacks were introduced into the current narrative. At first, we just get bits of memories from Nellie and Vanessa.

We hardly ever get to see things from Richard’s perspective, except as he appears to Vanessa and Nellie. 

He does truly appear to be too good to be true. We wonder what Vanessa did to lose a catch like him. What is the extent of the betrayal that Richard faces again and again from the women he loves? After all, Vanessa too had only been Richard’s second wife. Before her, there was another who deceived him. 

When Nellie recalls Richard’s words, She wasn’t who I thought she was and then, later when he tells her, Even when I’m not there, I’m always there with you, they take on ominous overtones.



It is in Chapter 10 that Vanessa makes the first suggestion relating to the woman who will replace her, Who will miss her when she disappears?


I didn’t dislike Vanessa, and that was my first cue that I wasn’t expected to, that my expectations were about to be blown away. She has had a hard life, with a father who passed away early and a mother who wasn’t there for her. She has made wrong choices, but she is not bad.

There were so many similarities between Vanessa and Nellie that I wondered if that was Richard’s type: new to the big city, naïve and innocent, and a little bruised by her past.



The authors play around cleverly with the memories, giving us a little at a time, so we can piece them together. Initially, we get Vanessa’s flashbacks, but not Nellie’s.

At first, the memories point towards one truth, and then gradually they acquire a different hue. As Vanessa recalls what really happened, not what she wants to imagine happened, she says, We all layer them over our remembrances; the filters through which we want to see our lives.

But maybe that is true of every marriage. Maybe being in love carries the requirement of filtered vision; perhaps it is so for everyone.


I liked Vanessa more than Nellie. Richard and Maureen, Richard’s sister, I didn’t like at all. They were too perfect for my liking. I thought that Maureen was hiding something.

It was at Chapter 18 that my assumptions about the plot and where it was headed were completely overturned. 

Every character got flipped over, the twists kept piling up and the scenario appeared anew. The best way to sum it up would be to say that nobody is what we think they are.

As Vanessa says, The full story is far too tangled and complex to unravel.


I’d definitely recommend this one.


(I read a Kindle edition of this book through NetGalley.)


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