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The Ninth Wife: A Novel Paperback – May 10, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“THE NINTH WIFE is a witty, satisfying novel with a clever structure. . . . There’s something so sweetly endearing about both Bess and Rory that readers will pull for them, knowing the odds may be against them. . . but hoping that this time, true love will triumph.” (Sarah Pekkanen, The Washington Post)

“I love this book’s deft, fresh take on male-female relationships. As Amy Stolls takes us into the minds, hearts, and histories of Bess and Rory, we grapple with the thorny, thrilling truth that love is always complicated, always—every time, every day—a risk.” (Marisa de los Santos, New York Times betselling author of Loved Walked In)

“THE NINTH WIFE is a vibrant, nuanced novel about marriage, identity and the moment when we realize that the shimmer of fantasy pales next to the tumultuous reality of ordinary, everyday happiness.” (Carolyn Parkhurst, bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel)

From the Back Cover

What sane woman would consider becoming any man's ninth wife?

Bess Gray is a thirty-five-year-old folklorist and amateur martial artist living in Washington, DC. Just as she's about to give up all hope of marriage, she meets Rory, a charming Irish musician, and they fall in love. But Rory is a man with a secret, which he confesses to Bess when he asks for her hand: He's been married eight times before. Shocked, Bess embarks on a quest she feels she must undertake before she can give him an answer. With her bickering grandparents (married sixty-five years), her gay neighbor (himself a mystery), a shar-pei named Stella, and a mannequin named Peace, Bess sets out on a cross-country journey—unbeknownst to Rory—to seek out and question the wives who came before. What she discovers about her own past is far more than she bargained for.

The Ninth Wife is a smart, funny, eye-opening tale of love, marriage, and the power of stories to unlock the true meaning of home and family.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Original edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061851892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061851896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,008,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Quinn on April 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When Bess finally finds that special someone who wants to share his life with her, Rory has just one small surprise- he has been married 8 times before! As she tried to work through her feelings about his past and theor future, she embarks on a cross country road trip from DC to take her grandparents to their new home in AZ, stopping along the way to meet as many of Rory's former wives as she can find.

From the description and flap copy, I expected a standard chick-lit book, full of humor and froth. What I got instead was a well-crafted family drama that explores love in all its different incarnations. The backstories here are poignant and complicated, giving the book a depth that I did not expect. Bess and Rory are great characters, as are Bess' friends and grandparents (who sounds quirky in the flap copy but are actually quite tragic in their way). I found it hard to put this excellent novel down and highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For a custom that is practiced worldwide, there are still a lot of questions about marriage. For example, why do we feel the need to get married, as opposed to simply participating in an informal, and possibly non-exclusive, relationship for a period of time? Why is marriage so valued that its ending is mourned? And, why do some people feel the need to stay in a marriage, while others have no qualms about ending it?

These weighty questions are examined in Amy Stolls' book, The Ninth Wife. As a means to explore these questions, Stolls relies on two familiar tropes used by authors. The first trope she uses is to exaggerate a situation in order to establish the story's thematic nature. In this case, Stolls introduces the character of Rory Fitzpatrick, who has been married eight times. The story of Fitzpatrick's serial matrimony, which takes up the book's first half, is Stolls' device for exploring why we get married and why we sometimes choose to end it. She then further exaggerates Fitzpatrick's situation by having him propose to Bess Gray, thus making Gray the potential ninth wife. The proposal allows Stolls to utilize a second trope: a physical journey as a metaphor for an emotional journey. In this case, Gray takes a trip across the United States with her grandparents and her gay friend/neighbor, while she evaluates Fitzpatrick's proposal. Gary's journey allows Stolls in the book's latter half to explore why people take marriage as seriously as they do.

Combining clichéd devices with serious issues can be disastrous. But, Stolls pulls it off in an intelligent, entertaining manner. In addition to the devices she used, the strong main and supporting characters that she utilizes in the story provide her with a solid footing for her examination.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The premise of this novel is what caught my attention --- how could an author write a novel about a man being married eight times without it becoming ridiculous and a total farce? I am glad that I gave this one a try since Amy Stolls manages to write an interesting novel and explains the eight wives without making the serial husband out to be a lunatic.

As our story opens, Bess Gray finds herself single at 35 years of age and just recently out of her latest relationship. A friend has suggested a "singles party" and, though hesitant, Bess goes along with the idea out of desperation and a fear of never finding "Mr. Right". Into this party walks Rory - a charismatic, Irish immigrant who mysteriously disappears when a woman at the event goes into labor. Rory is our many-times married fellow who Bess falls for when he ends up back in her life. Part I of the novel is narrated by these two primary characters as we follow their developing relationship and hear from Rory just how someone manages to be married eight times at a relatively young age. As the novel moves along, the focus changes to Bess and her grandparents as she drives them across the country to the new retirement home in Arizona. Bess gets the chance to see a long-term marriage up close and to begin to view it through the lens of an adult versus the rose-colored glasses of a granddaughter. Not everything is as it initially seems and the writer shows how every marriage has its secrets and compromises. Bess uses this trip as a opportunity to reflect on her feelings about being involved with a man married that many times and also makes arrangements to meet some of the ex-wives. Does their view of Rory impact her feelings towards him? Does his story of their previous marriage match up with the ex-wife's?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am not much of a novel reader these days but Amy Stoll's "The Ninth Wife" reeled me in. I devoured it, craved each page like ice cream or a white wine spritzer on a 98 degree Fahrenheit day in DC. And didn't want to get to the bottom of bowl or glass because it was ... oh, so good! It not only struck a chord but created a symphony in my head ... the anxieties and discords of relationship disasters past ... my marriage back in the '90s ... and most poignantly recall a phone call that I got unexpectedly a long time ago, years after my divorce ... from this stranger, a woman "tell me! How many ex-wives are there? How many children?" And then there were the gentle passages, the dances most of us are familiar with around blossoming love relationships. What makes Stoll's novel stand out is that it's not sappy, not contrived - it's real. Bess Gray and Rory McMcMillan are real life adults in their mid-30's/40's who are young enough to fall for each other head over heels; old enough to ask the right questions; and smart enough to know that a) people are not always who they appear to be; 2) the past does not necessarily set a precedent, and 3) only the future will tell. The initial idea of a "Ninth Wife" may cause some potential readers to hesitate but, be assured, this is neither a book about a male gold-digger, woman hater, or sex addict. It's a fabulous summer read - exquisitely researched, with a sound (and surprising!) story line ... written in a voice that's neither stuffy nor trite but highly appropriate for the relationship-burned, yet hopeful ("one day my prince will come") woman. Do you recognize yourself in my review? Yes? Then go and get your own copy now as I won't tell you more. Can't wait for a sequel!
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