A Woman Betrayed
Grade : B-

A Woman Betrayed opens with thirty-nine year old Laura Frye wide-awake, knuckles white. It's five in the morning and Jeff, her husband, never arrived home from work. There has been no call, no message, nothing. Laura is frantic. The two have been married for twenty years, have many friends and two children. In Laura's opinion, they have a good marriage. Laura runs her own restaurant, an endeavor that Jeff has supported and even bankrolled. So where is Jeff?

In the hours to come Laura calls friends, then the police. No one has seen Jeff or knows a anything. Friends, the police and even Laura's children ask pointed questions, "are you sure he would never leave?" Laura is sure. Jeff would never just disappear. Would he? There is no sign of foul play.

But even though Laura is sure that Jeff has met with an accident or worse, the reader soon draws a different conclusion. We see the suspicious looks that Laura ignores and hear the cautiously expressed doubts that she dismisses. We are learning as much about Laura as we are about Jeff.

In a matter of days Jeff's real life begins to reveal itself. It would be a shame to spoil this book by telling too much, but let's just say that Jeff has been leading a double life. With each new revelation Laura is floored. No longer the wife of a prominent businessman, she becomes an object of pity, then suspicion. There are practical problems too. Money has stopped coming in. For the first time in her married life Laura must worry about paying enough bills to keep her family afloat.

A Woman Betrayed is about how someone's life can fall apart in a matter of weeks or even days. Such a situation cannot help but be gripping. This book gets the grade it does because the characters are well drawn and because I could barely put it down with wondering what would happen next.

Laura wouldn't make a good romance heroine. She isn't romantic in her outlook and is not truly torn by the idea that her husband did not love her enough to stay. As the protagonist in women's fiction her thoughts reveal a woman who is both sympathetic and frustrating. She has spent her marriage doing what she thinks should make her family happy, and never asking them what they want. For example, Laura has spent enormous amounts of time buying presents that she thought that Jeff should want (but didn't) and planning vacations for him in beautiful places that everyone else knew he didn't like. But regardless of her mistakes, Laura doesn't deserve Jeff's abandonment or his betrayal. Furthermore, she learns from her mistakes and grows as a result of them.

For his part, Jeff is a man so weak and devious that we pity him even as he earns our contempt. Did he love Laura? We never really know. What we do know is that he allowed her to completely run the show while he developed his contemptible secret life.

There are other complex characters in this book. We get to know Laura's friend and lawyer Daphne, Laura's domineering mother, her children, and even the IRS agent who shows up to investigate some of Jeff's questionable transactions. There is a love story in this book though it doesn't take center stage and an important male character who is not described in this review. To say more would spoil this story which is dependent on surprise for some of its appeal.

But in spite of this book's readability there are some serious problems. A Woman Betrayed was originally published in 1991 and was quite dated even then. Despite the fact that she runs a restaurant, Laura has never had a bank account or a credit card of her own. Men in the book who accept that a woman can have a career are referred to as "liberal." There is an offensive subplot featuring a false accusation of rape by a high school girl who has a reputation. (This reviewer refuses to use the word slut to describe any child under eighteen.) When Daphne, the lawyer, began cross-examining the girl about her sexual history, this book came very close to hitting the wall.

But dated and frustrating as it can be, A Woman Betrayed is fun. Would I buy it in hardback? I don't know, probably not. But if you can find a paperback copy, it's a good diversion for a crisp fall night.

Reviewed by Robin Uncapher
Grade : B-
Book Type: Women's Fiction

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : October 2, 2001

Publication Date: 1994

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