The Wives of Bath
The Wives of Bath has the pure silliness and lightness of Chick Lit, but with grown up emotions and more intense problems, this “Mommy Lit” novel is a bit of a deeper read.
To say that Amanda and Alice dislike each other would be an understatement. Conceited and materialistic, Amanda blames pushover Alice for getting her fired from the magazine where both work. Alice is so tired of putting up with people like Amanda that she quits. Neither one expects to see the other at a birthing class in Bath. Amanda decides she and her husband, Hugo, are having a baby because it is the posh thing to do, while Alice has a surprise pregnancy with a one-night-stand she ends up marrying. One couple plans on giving birth at home naturally, with no drugs. The other plans on opting for a private hospital with plenty of medication. The two couples could not be more different.
Alice is slightly jealous of Amanda’s success, and Amanda is sickened by Alice’s attentive husband. But when the plans of both couples go awry, they suddenly realize that neither has a perfect life. Hugo must deal with a wife who cares nothing for being a mother and ends up abandoning him with the baby, leaving inexperienced Hugo to be both mother and father. Alice isn’t doing much better. She finds herself married to environmentalist fanatic Jake who makes her live in a cluttered house full of garbage that is supposedly being recycled. Even worse, he forces Alice to do everything naturally, including spending hours during her already hectic day making organic baby food. Everyone is miserable. While Amanda and Jake escape into their work, Alice and Hugo find unlikely allies in each other.
Alice has no intention of befriending Hugo. After all, the man is married to the most self-centered and uncaring woman she has ever met. And yet when Hugo begs her for help with his parenting skills, there is a sincere honesty to the man that she just can’t ignore. The more time Alice spends with Hugo the more she realizes how different he is from Amanda and just how wrong she was about the man. Being with Hugo offers Alice her only relief from her crazy life of feeling inadequate and alone. But when Hugo and Alice are caught in a compromising position, they just may lose not only their relationship with each other, but also custody of their children.
Holden has a sarcastic wit and charm to her writing that comes through in her book, yet there is much more to this novel than just humor. Cheating spouses, first time parents who have no idea what they are getting into, and the possible lose of love, are all situations that make this novel a bit meatier than many modern romances out there. The characters, too, were a bit deeper than usual. No character is perfect and, because of this, they seem incredibly human. The writing was smooth, with real, everyday suspense to the storyline and emotions that really tug at the heart. I could not help but feel for Alice and Hugo, who, with their multitude of problems come across as rather real. In particular, Hugo is an interesting character, who goes from being an ass to a caring father.
As a bit of a warning, there is adultery in this book. Although I didn’t particularly agree with the cheating aspect, it did not really take away from the story, but if you despise cheating in any way, you may want to skip this one. Although the book did flow rather well, the ending seemed a bit rushed and forced. Further, the villains in this story are so self centered and screwy that they could give any soap opera character a run for their money when they could have been portrayed as deeper than they were. In fact, had Amanda and Jake been more dimensional, with meaningful reasons for their selfishness, this book would have even better than it was. You might not always like the characters, you might not like the situations, but the story’s realness and humor makes it an interesting read.