The Other Mrs.
Sadie and Will have left their prosperous lives in Chicago behind in order to care for Will’s teenaged niece Imogen, whose mother has died unexpectedly. Sadie, whose background is in emergency medicine, isn’t thrilled to be living and working on a small island off the coast of Maine, but she and Will are in need of a fresh start. Plus, Imogen resisted Sadie’s initial plan to have her come to Chicago to live with them, so Sadie has unwillingly begun a new life on the island.
Not long after Sadie, Will and their sons arrive on the island, one of their neighbors is found dead in her house, apparently the victim of a brutal homicide. The idea of a murderer roaming around disturbs Sadie greatly, and she begins poking around in her former neighbor’s life in hopes of uncovering the identity of the perpetrator. As you might expect, this plan doesn’t go over very well, and Sadie soon finds herself in a great deal of danger both from a dark secret she’s been keeping for years as well as from the person responsible for her neighbor’s death.
AAR reviewers Shannon and Maggie read The Other Mrs., and got together to share their thoughts about Mary Kubica’s latest novel of psychological suspense.
Shannon: I’ve read almost all of Mary Kubica’s previous books, but I haven’t loved them all. Still, there’s something about her writing that always ropes me in, even when I’ve sworn not to pick up her latest novel. What is your history with this author’s work?
Maggie: I did an interview with Ms. Kubica for AAR back in 2014, when her first book The Good Girl came out. That is still my favorite of her novels and I’ve picked up all her books since, enjoying them to various degrees.
Shannon: I love darkly atmospheric thrillers, and The Other Mrs. has a creepy vibe that only seems to intensify as the story progresses. The author’s descriptions of Sadie’s new home gave me the chills right from the start – there was honestly a part of me that just wanted Sadie to run away from the danger. To me, this is a testament to the power of Ms. Kubica’s writing since most thrillers don’t evoke such a strong emotional response. What are your thoughts on the novel’s setting?
Maggie: I definitely thought the setting was one of the strongest aspects of the novel. The isolated island; cold, grey, dreary weather; spooky house with awful history – the whole prospect was very atmospheric and added a delicious tension to the tale. You knew right away that this location was trouble, that something bad would happen here and it is assuredly a testament to the author’s skill that that aspect leaps off the page and drags the reader into a dark place right away.
Shannon: Most of the story is told from Sadie’s point of view, but we are treated to a couple of other perspectives as well. At first, I struggled to connect these other characters to what was going on with Sadie, and I was pretty surprised by the big reveal toward the end of the book. Of course, now that I know the truth, it’s easy for me to see the small clues Ms. Kubica sprinkled throughout the story. Did the twist surprise you?
Maggie: Not really. There was a scene in the doctor’s office, where she was found playing with a patient, that was an “a-ha!” moment for me. However, the twist at the very end involving another character totally took me by surprise.
Shannon: Sadie is a complicated heroine. On the surface, her life seems pretty perfect, but as we get to know her, it becomes clear that she’s got a lot of emotional baggage. Some of her actions felt kind of foolish, but I didn’t find them out of character. I wanted her to think things through a bit more before running off into certain situations, but that’s pretty standard for these kinds of stories.
Maggie: True. I found Sadie’s behaviour very much in keeping with her deeply emotional character and the eeriness that surrounded her, as well as just the general creepiness of her situation. However, I found it totally unbelievable that she would be a doctor. That aspect yanked me out of the story almost every time.
Shannon: Yes, I found myself questioning that aspect of the story as well.
Imogen plays a pretty big role in the story as a whole. It’s clear from the start that Sadie doesn’t like her, and I definitely understand why. She is portrayed as a malevolent force, someone who isn’t trustworthy, but Sadie is the only one who sees her this way. What did you think of her?
Maggie: Imogen felt a bit like a deus ex machina to me. She was the impetus for the move and the creepy character meant to distract us from the real horror of what’s going on, but we didn’t spend enough time with her and she wasn’t fully developed enough for me to really understand who she was.
Shannon: Some of the novel’s dialog came off as over-the-top, which was especially noticeable in the case of the villains. They would say things I can’t imagine people saying in real life, especially if they wanted to be taken seriously. There were a few times I was pulled right out of the story by a strange turn of phrase.
Maggie: I agree, some of the dialogue felt very unrealistic, especially in the case of the villains.
Shannon: Overall, I enjoyed The Other Mrs., but it’s not without its flaws. I don’t think it’s quite as compelling as Pretty Baby which happens to be my favorite book by this author, but neither is it the worst thing she’s written. I’d give it a B, a solid thriller with a creepy setting and a good twist, but not something that really stands out from the crowd. What is your final grade?
Maggie: I would go with a B-. I felt the ending was completely unrealistic, I don’t want to give away details, but Sadie wouldn’t have gotten to go home at the end for that final confrontation in real life. It just wouldn’t have happened. The ending itself felt surreal to me, especially the idyllic scene where everything and everyone is happy and again, not happening given what we learned during the story. The author’s handling of mental illness was very lackadaisical and that pulled the grade down for me overall, in spite of the excellent job she did in creating a perfectly atmospheric setting for her thriller.