Read with: iBooks for iPad
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Impulse Australia
Date of Publication: September 1, 2015
Started On: August 25, 2015
Finished On: August 26, 2015
I truly became his the day he sent me a line from a John Donne poem: more than kisses, letters mingle souls.
Rowena Wiseman’s The Replacement Wife, though it might come off as a humorous chic lit sort of story by its description is hardly that. I guess this is my first Contemporary Fiction novel too, and though there is a humorous tinge to the layout of the story, it delves with an issue that few authors will write so candidly about. Adultery. Straying from your partner. Why people begin to look for a way out when a long term relationship or marriage turns dull and passionless.
Luisa and Luke have been married for almost 12 years. With their son Max in tow, Luisa and Luke’s life is a typical page out of how long term relationships can go wrong, without one even realizing that its happening. Luisa receives the wake up call when she meets Jarvis, one of her long ago crushes. One thing leads to another and before long, Luisa and Jarvis have professed their love for each other.
Though Luisa doesn’t allow the physical aspect of hers and Jarvis’ relationship to proceed, emotionally, she cheats on Luke in every foreseeable manner. And then Luisa comes up with the perfect plan. Find her husband a woman he would fall in love with and then she would finally be able to move on with Jarvis, with zero guilt.
After many a hilarious antic by Luisa, when her plan finally kicks off, the consequences of her actions certainly brings forth the kind of emotions she thought she would no longer feel towards her husband. With a bittersweet ending to it, The Replacement Wife definitely is not for the judgmental, the ones who think that the perfect mates are angels sent from heaven.
I applaud Rowena Wiseman for putting this story out there. It must not have been easy to write, because even though this book is highly readable, the material in it is one that pricks and pokes at you, makes you think along lines that you would never want to, unless you are someone who is willing to push the boundaries, all the time. Looking at some of the reviews already up on Goodreads, some readers admit that this book actually made them uncomfortable. So no surprises that this book has received low ratings from them.
Like I said, this book is not for everyone. Luisa and Luke’s relationship or the lack of one, when it comes to light, is sort of heartbreaking. Theirs is a passionless existence. The mundaneness of life had broken their relationship well and good. Luisa’s emotional and sexual needs remain unseen to. Luke remains adamant that he is a good husband, just that Luisa wants it all – things that he has no inclination now to give.
I couldn’t bring myself to hate Luisa for what she did. I understood her. I felt for her. I actually felt bad for her because a passionless relationship is hard for someone who wants more. Who yearns for that spark in their lives. For Luke, it is just the opposite. He is content with what he has with Luisa and Max. This is a question I’ve asked on occasion. If you have never truly tasted the volatility and beauty of passion, how do you judge someone who has, for wanting that?
Luisa believes that Jarvis is that man for her. The man who would sweep her off her feet, fulfill her physical and emotional needs. It was painful to see her ask from Luke, to see her try and provoke him into feeling something. Anything. And when Luisa’s plan works and gives that jolt to Luke, their marriage becomes infused with the energy that had been missing from it for so long, and that is when Luisa comes to the realization that she had lost it all.
Perhaps in the end, Luisa got what she deserved. While Luke got the better end of the deal if you ask me, I liked the story for its ability to make me think. Think hard. About life choices, about how much work it is to actually keep any relationship, let alone a marriage alive, especially after kids enter the picture.
Luke wasn’t a bad husband per se. But the fact that he couldn’t muster any enthusiasm to reach out to his wife, to realize just how bad things were in their relationship, that signals just how dead he was inside as well. I don’t think many would appreciate the candid honesty of Rowena’s voice in this novel. I loved it. It was definitely refreshing to see the side of ‘relationships’ that most authors would definitely not want to write about.
No one likes reading about adultery, unless it comes with a ton of forbidden fruit material with it. But I believe Rowena Wiseman’s take on the issue is insightful, to say the least. If you are squeamish about stories that deal with cheating, this is definitely not for you. But if you’d like to read something that would make you think and view the world just a tad more realistically, give The Replacement Wife a try. It just might teach you a thing or two.
Final Verdict: Honest & at times brutal in its depiction, digs deep into why we stray when we stray.
I sat on the single chair and watched him, wondering how we had drifted so far from each other. He was like a business partner living in my house. He liked us to make all of the decisions about Max together; it was parenting by committee. I couldn’t buy a new winter quilt for Max without getting Luke’s sign-off on the warmth rating and choice of material first. He liked input into the choice of washing detergent, the ply of the toilet paper, the home-cooked meals for the week. We talked about all of these things, but we no longer talked about ourselves: about our hopes, our dreams, our passions, our fears. We had nothing left between us as people. We were just decision-makers.
I thought about Ben, who’d had an affair on Trish two years ago, and how much I’d despised him, how I’d thought Ben was such a low-life bastard. But now I felt like maybe I understood Ben’s perspective. I realised that people don’t make decisions to have an affair lightly; it happens with a lot of angst and soul-searching. Perhaps I should have applauded Ben’s bravery, his sense of adventure and inability to settle for an unsatisfying long-term relationship. So many people settle for misery; you hear of those couples that break up after thirty years of an unhappy marriage, after the kids move out of home. Those are the people who deserve our damnation, not the ones who are brave enough to make a great escape before their breasts go as flat as roadkill.
He said he’d wait for me; I could take my time. He said he knew that we were born to be together, that it would happen when the time was right, and if it wasn’t right yet he would wait.
Sometimes he didn’t say much at all, he simply sent me a link to a song, a quote from a book he was reading, an image of a work he was sketching. I truly became his the day he sent me a line from a John Donne poem: more than kisses, letters mingle souls.
I was an editor, in love with words, and his words had been the most precious I had ever read. They had transcended reality, dug a hole in my head, and planted seeds of what my life could be like with someone who could write such words. But could that someone ever have lived those words fully with me? Probably not.
I ran my fingers over those scattered pieces of gold tinsel on the ground. They had dropped off, become detached, lost their shine, gotten splattered by mud. Those fallen pieces of tinsel were me. I rescued two strands and put them in my handbag.
Last week I saw a new sculpture of Jarvis’s in the Venice Biennale on artnews.com. It was a red tinsel zombie, smaller than usual. In front of the zombie were large silver letters, Emily Floyd-style, saying More than kisses, letters mingle souls. My heart tumbled in dirty laundry. Perhaps I had meant something to him after all? Maybe he did remember everything, too? Maybe this was his way of reaching out to me? But then I saw a small 3D word to the side of the work, a reference. I zoomed in to see what it said. Instead of John Donne, it was the word Done. It was his last goodbye to me. And silver scissors snipped me free from the golden tinsel I’d been hanging onto for years.