Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman

MOTHER DAUGHTER WIDOW WIFE is an interesting book that gets more interesting as you read because it goes in several directions that you (probably) won't expect. The format is a bit tricky, because it's told in multiple timelines with multiple POVs. It took me a shamefully long time to figure that out going in so I'll detail a little about what's going on to make it easier for others.

Lizzie is an ambitious student working at a research institution. Her professor gives her a golden opportunity to study a woman who has been checked in to the institute who has dissociative amnesia. Her POV takes place in the past. Elizabeth is grown-up Lizzie, now widowed and no longer involved in science. Her POV takes place in the present. Wendy is the name given to the woman with amnesia (short for "Wendy Doe") who is surprisingly cynical about her situation. Her POV takes place in the past. Alice is Wendy's daughter. She's looking into her mother's checkerboard past now that she's gone missing again. Her POV is in the present.

These three women and the roles they play in the narrative gradually intertwine. Over the course of the novel, you learn more about what drives Lizzie, what happened traumatic incident happened to Wendy, and how Alice lives under the shadow of her own psychological problems that remain largely unchecked. The psychology/neuroscience angle doesn't come into play as centrally as I thought it would, and this book isn't quite the thriller I imagined it would be based on the blurb and the cover. It's almost like a domestic drama, like Lianne Moriarty would write, where it takes these intimate scenes from people's lives and uses them to do an exhaustive character study on some truly flawed and yet completely relatable characters.

The first two thirds of this book read much faster than the last third. I did feel like it slowed down a little, but before I could get bored, Wasserman threw a curveball that completely changed my feelings about one of the other characters in the book and put their relationship with another character in a wholly new light. It made me realize how careful the foreshadowing was, and let me read the story with new eyes. I'm always impressed when an author can do that successfully as it shows such careful planning. MOTHER DAUGHTER WIDOW WIFE is the type of book that will do really well in book clubs and I wouldn't be surprised to see it topping the best-seller charts when it comes out. It made me realize that I have some other Wasserman titles in my TBR pile that I really ought to read, because I'm a sucker for books about morally grey women and she's quite good at writing them.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3.5 out of 5 stars

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