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My Only Wife Paperback – May 8, 2012

6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jac Jemc: Her work has appeared in The Denver Quarterly, Caketrain, Handsome and Sleepingfish, among others. She is the author of a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She'd Invited In (Greying Ghost Press) and the poetry editor for decomP Magazine. Jac blogs her rejections at


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Dzanc Books (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936873680
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936873685
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,285,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jac Jemc lives in Chicago where she writes fiction and poetry. Her first novel, My Only Wife, was released by Dzanc Books in April 2012 and is a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for debut fiction. Her first full-length collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time, is due out from Dzanc in October 2014. A chapbook of stories, This Stranger She'd Invited In, sold out at Greying Ghost Press in March 2011 . Jac's writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize many a time and her story "Women in Wells" was featured in the 2010 Best of the Web. Jac received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has completed residencies at Ragdale and the Vermont Studio Center. She is a web fiction editor for Hobart and curator of the Non-Reader Spotlight, a series of interviews with people who claim they don't read. She is poetry editor at decomP and has served as a guest editor of Little White Poetry Journal and Hobart Web, and worked as a reader at Our Stories and The Means. In 2012 she was the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grant.

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Ellen on April 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
My Only Wife opens with an epigraph from Emily Dickinson: "That those who know her, know her less, the nearer her they get." This is the reader's obsession and compulsion and joy, shared by the husband, who has been left, who recounts for us the stories of his wife. This novel is so well-written, so well-crafted, I was constantly torn between slowing down to linger in the wonderful prose and speeding up to chase the intoxicating story, which is to say, the intoxicating wife. A woman who rips pages from her favorite books, tosses the pages out of windows for passersby below to find and read. A woman who erases the first love letter her husband ever wrote her because it was written in pencil (and for a more heartbreaking reason I won't divulge here). A woman who collects oral histories of strangers, records them secluded in a closet, out of earshot of her husband. A woman you'd expect to find in a foreign film, where women are celebrated for their strength and wit and independent spirit and unknowability. And while we are making comparisons to the movies, there is a Hitchockian ending I didn't see coming (as one shouldn't, Hitchcockian endings!). All in all, a brilliant novel I will add to my shelf of favorite books, alongside Memories of My Melancholy Whores and The Lover and I Look Divine and The Postman Always Rings Twice and Suicide and A Single Man. Books to read again and again. Books to obsess over and devour.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love how ultimately intangible the characters in this book seemed to me. The narrator spends the entire book remembering his wife, who left him without a trace, but he seems utterly mystified about her. His own identity only seems to take shape juxtaposed against his memories of his wife, and I've already mentioned how ephemeral that turns out to be, so it's almost like a relative description without a referent. Skillfully done and a thrill to read, the overall effect of the book is absolutely haunting.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Thomas on August 19, 2012
Format: Paperback

There is a sense of chaos involved in the act of falling in love, a lack of control, and quite possibly a hint of something tragic, a chance to be hurt. This applies to the slim but haunting novel My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) by Jac Jemc. In marriage there is the possibility of intimacy, a merging of spirit and life, but the reality can be a dense caryatid carved out of lies, mysteries, and selfish acts.

My Only Wife is about an unnamed couple, a husband who has fallen and surrendered, and a deceptive, passionate and quirky wife. The way Jemc renders their story is painful in its depiction of beauty and love, vicious in its evocation of what a broken heart feels like--the eternal echo of a call left unanswered.

I don't usually point out epigraphs, but the two that open up this novel are so perfectly selected that I need to mention them up front. The first is from Emily Dickinson:

"That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get."

And the second is from Leonard Cohen:

"Is this what you wanted? To live in a house that was haunted by the ghost of you and me?"

The wife is an enigma, defying expectations--inclusive and dependent one minute, reclusive and absent the next--and the Cohen lines, especially, touch on the idea of a cruel mistress (or master) who would ask a lover to stay in a place where there is only the ghost of what used to be.

The wife is a waitress, and though she keeps her thoughts and interpretations private, she has a unique ability to listen, to pull hidden narratives from her customers as if laying her hands on them to rid their souls of demons, and she shares their personal matters with her husband.
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