The blurb on the back of Tarryn Fisher’s “The Wives” describes the book as “shocking” and “twisted.” I can’t help but agree. I was so “shocked” by the ending that I must’ve read the last two pages several times just to understand how “The Wives” went from a delicious thriller to something resembling a low-budget Lifetime movie.
“The Wives” is written from the perspective of Thursday, a young nurse living in Seattle. Early on, we learn that Seth, Thursday’s husband, visits her every Thursday (a point of confusion for me because I assumed her nickname was Thursday). On Monday and Tuesday, he visits his other wives. Legally, Seth is not married to these other women, but he’s their husband in every other sense of the word. Thursday is initially compliant with this strange relationship. You see, she’s aware that Seth has other wives, recognizing that Seth must get his other needs (i.e. a baby) fulfilled by another woman. In fact, she willingly competes against Monday and Tuesday, as if their polygamy were merely a bizarre episode of “The Bachelor.” She dubs Tuesday as Seth’s first “selfish” wife, jabbing at her inability to cook and even jokingly asking Seth one night if it was “Pizza for dinner again?” Thursday, in contrast, revels in her mastery of the kitchen, a skill that she views as making her a better wife.
In the first chapter, we get a glimpse into the “picturesque” side of Thursday and Seth’s marriage — Thursday’s lavish dinner (a juicy rack of lamb served with oranges and cream), a back-and-forth of flirty banter and a night of hot sex. I was hooked. I wanted to see their precariously-held relationship crumble. I wanted the cat-fights between Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I wanted the dark secrets to resurface. Because while Thursday is aware of Seth’s other wives, she doesn’t know who they are. Thursday’s happenstance finding of a carefully folded piece of paper in Seth’s jacket with an appointment for “Hannah” takes the readers on a journey that circumvents everything we thought we knew.
Devoid of flowery prose, the blunt writing style made it easy for readers to get reeled into the mind of Thursday. There were no lengthy paragraphs, no heavy themes to dissect. Reading “The Wives” was like listening to the ravings of that one eccentric friend. I found myself questioning time and again, who’s telling the truth? Thursday… or Seth? “The Wives”’ restriction to just the perspective of Thursday intensifies mystery and thrill at the expense of a carefully plotted novel.
On paper, “The Wives” had everything that I would normally find enticing: a dark, sexy relationship, long (almost pornographic) descriptions of food, a mound of buried secrets and a jaw-dropping twist. Except for the relationship (and maybe the food, but I’m picky!), the rest of the cliches weren’t quite as well executed. The climax comes a little too early and it’s a dumpster fire of twist after twist revelations as if we’re watching a parody of a dramatic unmask. Wait… it was actually ME this whole time! The latter half of “The Wives” does a disservice to the slow-burning thrill of the first. I kept reading with morbid curiosity, hoping my terrible predictions didn’t come true. It was worse than I could’ve imagined. My brain was a scrambled mess when I reached the final “twist” and “shocking” conclusion. Above all, I was confused and disappointed. “The Wives” had set the stage for an expert psychological thriller. A novel that could’ve explored the innermost darkness of the human psyche. Instead, “The Wives” relied on cheap thrills to get to the finish line.
While I wasn’t satisfied with the ending of “The Wives,” I still enjoyed the book. After a month-long reading hiatus (yes, I know. I’m disappointed with myself too), “The Wives” succeeded in its promise as “a thriller you won’t be able to put down!” I finished this book in one sitting, dying to know the ending.