I had a very difficult time grading The Younger Wife. Sally Hepworth’s family-driven suspense novels are always a great read, and The Younger Wife is genuinely surprising, absorbing, and interesting, providing the reader with a satisfying page-turner. But on the other hand, its entire plot hinges on the neurotic presumptions of its main cast, who avoid examining their own issues and decide to allow their father’s secret first ex-wife to basically gaslight them into committing some heinous deeds. Get a Snickers bar and a bottle of wine, because you’re gonna be up all night with this one.
The neurotic Natalie – Tully - Aston takes one look at the appropriately-named Heather Wisher as she enters the restaurant on her father’s arm and smells blood in the water. The younger woman is engaged to Tully’s father, Stephen – even though Stephen is still married to his dementia-stricken wife, Tully’s mother Pamela.
Stephen’s solution to this issue is simple. He’ll divorce the legally incompetent Pamela - who often steals piles of objects and stows them in her closet, and is currently living in a memory care facility - and marry interior designer Heather. But Tully thinks Heather is a gold-digger, and Tully’s sister - controlling professional baker Rachel - soon joins her in this presumption. The two sisters team up to drag the skeletons out of Heather’s closet.
But Heather isn’t the one keeping secrets. Along the way, the three women find their father’s first wife, and begin to suspect that he abused her, was abusing their mother, and may be abusing Heather. Or is it all in their minds?
The Younger Wife makes a choice not to believe its victims right off the bat. We learn that Rachel was raped by an unknown assailant, that Tully’s marriage is difficult and her children are unruly, that their mother is bruised and that Heather is an alcoholic. Because everyone jumps to conclusions, no one gets to the germane truth.
This is both incredibly annoying and incredibly involving. Even when The Young Wife annoyed me by suggesting that domestic violence victims lie and women cannot be trusted to recount their own abuse, I was compelled by the unfolding mystery and these lovably unlovable characters.
For romance fans, there’s a side romance between Rachel and a man named Darcy, and Tully’s relationship with her husband Sonny continues throughout the entire novel. How you’ll feel about both Pamela’s relationship with Stephen and Heather’s connection to him will likely be determined by how you feel about who Stephen really is. And heaven knows how I actually feel about him, after this mindscrew of a novel! Twist upon twist happens, tying itself up into one almost implausible bow. Part of me wants to mark the book down for its last quarter, but the characters are so human and flawed that of course this is how things turned out for them all.
As angry as The Young Wife made me, I found it utterly, wholly appealing and irresistible. I spent hours glued to it, and Hepworth’s many fans will likely do the same.
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Recent Comments …
It’s the original one–unlike many of the other older historicals, this one hasn’t been updated.
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