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The Wife's Tale: A Novel Paperback
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From Publishers Weekly
Lansens's hopeful and gentle third novel (after The Girls), opens in the same fictitious Ontario county as its predecessors, but the heroine's journey takes her to a vastly different landscape, both literally and spiritually. In Leaford, Mary Gooch's life is strictly circumscribed—she's even worn a rut in the carpet between the bed and the kitchen, so often has the 302-pound woman made the trip. So when Mary's handsome husband disappears on the eve of their silver wedding anniversary, Mary wonders whether her size or her aversion to adventure chased him off. With few clues, Mary leaves her small town for one of the first times in her life, venturing first to Toronto and then to the suburbs of Los Angeles, where a series of encounters with strangers shakes her out of her lethargy. Mary's journey may be too carefully mapped out, but she's a wonderful character, and Lansens's handling of her eventual transformation into someone capable of compassion and acceptance is handled with a light but assured touch. (Feb.)
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.
Lansens’ third character-driven novel tracks the highs and lows in the life of Mary Gooch, who still has “such a pretty face” and a “voluminous body.” On the evening of Mary’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, her husband, Jimmy, doesn’t come home, initiating a domino-like series of actions that turn Mary’s life around. Initially embarrassed by Jimmy’s disappearance, and deciding that “everyone knew about Jimmy Gooch leaving his fat wife to go on some middle-aged vision quest,” she boards a plane for California, where his mother lives and where Mary is sure he will eventually turn up. There she is befriended by an odd mélange of characters who seem destined to help, including an Israeli taxi driver who takes her to his friend’s plus-size boutique for a make-over, a single mom whose children adopt Mary as their favorite babysitter, and Jesus Garcia, her mother-in-law’s pool cleaner who shares with Mary his own survival strategies. Lansens writes with acute insight into Mary’s bingeing and depression, fully immersing readers in her protagonist’s struggle to find a new and better self. --Deborah Donovan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Ever since she was young, Mary has been battling the "obeast", that driving hunger for food, that something that will satisfy her. During her few thin years she met the handsome athletic Jimmy Gooch and their romance was more then she could ever imagine. Then the disappointments and worries came, the weight was back. Jimmy swore that he still loved her, but the well worn path from her bedroom to the refrigerator was something that could no longer be avoided.
To find her husband, Mary knew that she had to break away from her very small world in Canada and board an airplane to California to confront a mother in law that detested her, but she would do that, to bring her Jimmy home. In the process of finding her wayward husband, Mary found the good in people, the good in herself and a way to keep the "obeast" quiet.
Though I've never been a fan of the woman trying to find herself type of book, I loved Mary's story. It wasn't all tied up with a neat bow because a man loved her and they lived happily ever after. Mary came across as a real woman, with real fears and real hopes. And in her journey to put her life back together she found good people, people who appreciated her for who she was, not what she looked like or how much money she had. She was willing to put herself out there, to show the world all her warts and maybe, just maybe, she could find the peace that would finally satisfy her.
When we meet Mary [Brody] Gooch, she is a compulsive overeater who is morbidly obese. She often refers to herself as the `obeast.' She had once thought that this is what her doctor told her mother after weighing her. He was stating `obese,' and Mary, at a young age, thought that he had stated, `obeast.'
Mary and Jimmy Gooch [known as Gooch] marry when Mary is eighteen years old. They are childless. Gooch appears to love Mary very much. However, he seems to have wanderlust and often beseeches Mary to join him on a vacation, a trip, somewhere different. However, Mary is too ashamed of and depressed about her 302-pound body to consider this. She seems quite filled not only with self-loathing but apparently with little control of her ceaseless need to eat. She cannot see herself as doing or being anywhere but in Baldoon County, Ontario.
As a reader, I suffered along with Mary trying on those clothes only to discover that nothing but her blue scrubs fit - her drugstore work uniform. Lansens' description of Mary is so realistic, that I thought that I could actually see those folds of fat. Again, when Mary cuts her foot, I felt a sharp pain and saw all of that blood.
Primarily due to Mary's isolative nature, she and Gooch seldom venture too far from home. Mary appears to be self-involved and very depressed. However, Mary holds down a job at a local drugstore. She regularly visits her mother who has Alzheimer's disease. These are emotionally painful visits, and again, Lansens captures the atmosphere of a nursing home in a realistic manner.
Mary and Gooch are preparing to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Talk about surprise gifts! Mary gets one, and it is a huge surprise. If anyone saw and really liked `Now Voyager,' he/she will no doubt appreciate this narrative. Lansens takes the reader and Mary on a transforming journey.
All of the characters in `Wife's Tale' are finely nuanced. This refers to both the main characters, as well as the minor ones. I thought that I knew Eden [Mary's mother-in-law], Big Avi steals the heart and Jesus Garcia is not bad either!
Lori Lansens' prose has a fabulous cadence, a lyrical style that captures one from the onset. I could not help but read many lines repeatedly. Her prose is nicely seasoned with weight, bulk, heft, etc. While some of the dialogue becomes a bit schmaltzy, it suits the narrative.
This is a fast, insightful read into the world of those with eating disorders/addictions. Lansens seems to possess a keen insight into the world of the seemingly damaged among us and how they are perceived by society. Additionally, she captures humanity at its zenith. Lansens does so consistently and with marvelous panache. This writer did this with `The Girls,' as well. She compels the reader to ask, `Who is really damaged?'
Caveat: This is not an absolutely perfect book and some questions remain unanswered [for me]. However, the writing is consistently gripping.
The story opens on the night before Mary and Jimmy Gooch's 25th wedding anniversary in the small town of Leaford Canada. Mary is laying in bed thinking back over her married life, wondering if she'll be able to squeeze her 302 pound body into anything she owns, and waiting for Jimmy, a tall, handsome furniture delivery man, to come home from work. As the longest night of her life slowly fades, Mary realizes he's not coming home and thus begins her journey to find herself. She starts out looking for Jimmy, true, but soon discovers that she has no idea who she is. The author flashes back to Mary's past and vividly fills in the back story for us. She skillfully fleshes out the characters and we begin to feel that we know them intimately. At first I was frustrated, looking for a plot, but when I realized the story was mainly about Mary, I relaxed and began to enjoy the read. I found myself loving and rooting for Mary with all of my heart and soul.
This is not a plot-driven story, it's about a character and her quest for self-discovery. There is not one thing ordinary about Mary Gooch, as we discover when she boards an airplane for the first time and heads to California thinking she'll visit Jimmy's elderly mother and get some clues as to where her husband is. The people she encounters and the friends she makes begin to become mirrors for Mary and for the first time in her life, she actually likes what she sees.
I read this book twice and the second time, I loved it even more. Thank you, Ms. Lansens, for taking me on this extraordinary journey of one woman and therefore everywoman.