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The Good Wife: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

Stewart O'Nan's ninth novel, The Good Wife, begins with that classic harbinger of bad news: A phone call in the middle of the night. Small-town housewife Patty Dickerson, pregnant with her first child, has been waiting in bed for her husband Tommy to get home. When the call comes, it's from jail. Tommy has been arrested for murder after a robbery gone awry. He doesn't make it home for 28 years.

With his usual practicality, O'Nan kills the hope off quickly in The Good Wife. This isn/t a novel of beating the odds but of enduring them. We follow Patty through her husband's long incarceration as she moves in with family, gets a series of low-paying jobs, remains faithful to Tommy, and raises their son Casey alone. These aren't unique circumstances--although they rarely form the stuff of fiction--and these aren't unique, unforgettable characters. Patty Dickerson could be anyone, and that's the point. This is a story of ordinary lives and small graces. O'Nan's refusal to dress things up (or down) is part of the charm of this clear-sighted, uncompromising novel. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Patty Dickerson, the resilient heroine of O'Nan's forceful, oddly moving ninth novel, is pregnant with her first child and waiting for her husband, Tommy, on a snowy night in the mid-1970s, when the phone rings. It's Tommy, and he's in jail after a robbery. He's been a thief for some time, a fact Patty has refused to acknowledge. Unfortunately, Tommy's latest escapade involves arson and death. Convicted of murder in the second degree, he receives a sentence of 25 years to life. The main story is Patty's, told in the present tense in quietly lyrical and observant prose: the struggle to make ends meet in an economically depressed upstate New York community, the shame of her son's father being in prison, the frustrating and humiliating treatment the penal system inflicts on prisoners and family alike. In a sense, Patty's life is on semipermanent hold over the 28 years Tommy spends in a correctional facility, but of course it isn't really: her son grows up, she visits her husband as often as she can, she works, mostly at dead-end jobs, and eventually she creates a career for herself. In other words, she makes a life that's both with and without her love. O'Nan (The Night Country) has completely captured Patty Dickerson and her dogged determination to endure in this sad but strangely hopeful story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: fsg; First Edition (1 in number line) edition (April 1, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0374281394
  • ASIN: B000H305RS
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,729,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, A Prayer for the Dying, Last Night at the Lobster, and Emily, Alone. Granta named him one of America's Best Young Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Monica J. Kern VINE VOICE on July 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This haunting novel describes in spare prose the long span of time that passes between the commission of a crime by Patty's husband, Tommy, and his release from prison many years later. Throughout it, Patty is the "good wife" indeed, nearly unwavering in her support for Tommy in the face of truly difficult circumstances. The graceful writing and moral dilemmas in this novel will stay with you long after finishing it.

O'Nan provides a totally convincing portrayal of a segment of society--the spouses, usually wives, of convicts--that goes almost completely ignored and neglected. This book is searing reminder that crimes harm not only the victims of the crime, who naturally deserve the bulk of our sympathy, but also the criminal's loved ones. Tommy's apparent lack of recognition of, and remorse for, the harm he has done to his wife and the child he was not around to raise is one of the most disturbing aspects of the novel. Patty WAS a good wife, and she deserved more gratitude from Tommy than she received.

What makes this novel deserving of 5 stars is not merely its story but the writing itself. In beautiful, spare prose O'Nan writes simply of the day to day complications of trying to get by as a single mother whose only hope for the future is at the far end of a 25-year sentence. Parts of Patty's life are described in detail, but in other parts of the book, entire years go by summarized in a phrase or a sentence. The tragedy of Patty's life is that entire years COULD be summarized in a sentence, and through his prose O'Nan communicates vividly the bleakness of a life placed far too long on hold.

Should Patty have stuck by Tommy? That's a hard question.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Allyson Decker on August 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
And how much are you willing to pay? That is the question posed to Patty Dickerson, pregnant wife of Tommy. One night, Tommy and his friend are caught breaking into a home. Something goes horribly wrong, a woman ends up dead, and Patty's life starts in a downward spiral. Tommy is sentenced to prison, Patty has her baby and must find a way to survive not only financially but emotionally as well.

Things are bleak - she cant hold a job, money is non existent and Tommy is moved from prison to prison, making visitation tough.

I didn't feel that the novel was full of cliffhangers or suspense but I did want to continue reading till the end to see what would happen to Patty and Tommy. Would she stay or would she go? Would he ever get out of prison? I felt compelled to read till the end to find out although by the time I got there, some of the interest was gone.

The book jacket states that "The Good Wife illuminates a marriage and family tested to the limits of endurance." Thats for sure.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JoAnne VINE VOICE on June 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I probably shouldn't be writing this review. Since I finished this book a few days ago, I've recommended it to a few people, and when I told them what it was about, the response was the same: "it sounds awful--why would I read it?"

So, in the interest of encouraging others to read the book, I will try to refrain from description (the formal and informal reviews on this site will give you the gist of the story anyway) and try to explain why this book had such an impact on me, and why (after I stayed up late to finish it) my sleep was wracked with cold sweat nightmares.

All the really horrible events in the story occur offstage (the murder that precipitates the rest of the story, Tommy's various beatings) and the emotions that accompany them are painted in such subdued colors that we almost ache for the characters: Patty driving through the dreary countryside on her regular prison visits, Tommy returning to his cell, the interminable waits for news that's sometimes bad (denial of appeals) and sometimes a cause for celebration (family prison visits).

Although Patty decries her son's lack of affect, she somehow does not seem to realize that she herself evinces little emotion. We, the readers, must feel it for her. She goes through the motions of life without asking many questions, feeling much grief, wishing her lot were better, or getting depressed. The inability of her husband and son to establish a close relationship seems to make her unhappy, but she is similarly unable to make any deep connection with anyone. She's there for Tommy because it's who she is. She accepts her life in a way that most of us refuse to accept the limitations of our lives.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tracy L. VINE VOICE on June 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
One of the things I liked best about this book was O'Nan's "cut to the chase" approach to telling this story. He did not bog it down with a lot of unnecessary description. Instead he told you just enough to put you in the moment.

I felt a connection to Patty. Her struggles were very real to me. I could sympathize with her situation. She even annoyed me at times as well. I found her love for Tommy and her loyalty to her relationship with him touching and admirable. She is determined to make it through this because she genuinely loves this man. I like the fact that Tommy's prison life was not a central part of the story. If it had been, it would have totally detracted from what is essentially Patty's story.

O'Nan could have easily written this book another way (i.e. Patty meets and falls in love with another man, Casey becomes a troubled teen, etc.) I think a lot of lesser authors would have done just that. Thankfully, instead of going the "romance" route, he has written a wonderful story of love, determination and perseverance.
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