07 April 2010

Review: The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens

I'm thrilled to announce that my review of Lori Lansens's The Wife's Tale: A Novel (audiobook edition) has been published at the WETA Book Studio blog.

Although obesity is common in the twenty-first century, more novels have focused on anorexia and bulimia than on overeating. Mary Gooch, the wife in Lori Lansens's The Wife's Tale, learned she was "obeast" when at nine years old she overheard the doctor whispering the word to her mother. At forty-three, Mary weighs 302, two pounds bigger than she ever thought she'd get.

On the eve of her silver anniversary, Mary walks the familiar trail between the bed and the refrigerator, eating to calm her worries about why her husband has not yet come home. Alone in the dark of night, she measures each heartbreak—her miscarriages, her father's death, her hysterectomy—by the number of pounds she gained. The hum of the Kenmore calls to her like the Sirens, and she is unable to resist its song.

At Jimmy Gooch's sudden disappearance, Mary is at a loss for what to do. Without giving it much thought, she leaves her town and her country for the first time, hoping to find her husband and save her marriage. How will Mary, the obeast, cope in southern California, home of plastic surgery and stick-figure models and actors?

In what could have been yet another story of a deserted wife, Lansens instead focuses on two principal themes. First, the novel takes a frank look at what it means to be morbidly obese, from finding clothes to having no energy, to sneaking food, and to waiting for a heart attack. Mary can read the thoughts in people's eyes as they watch her, so she learns never to look up. The novel helps us understand that, as with anorexia, overeating is related to self-esteem and control issues.

The Wife's Tale is also a story of survival. In her travels, Mary meets and befriends people who have faced different kinds of adversity, such as drug addiction, loss of a spouse, immigration, and loss of wealth. Each person reinforces the deceptively simple key to coping that Mary's father used to recite: Get a drink from the hose and push on. Through reciprocal support and friendship, she finally discovers her own inner strength to do just that. Mary's personal journey is taken one labored step at a time, and even though she's not yet reached her destination, she is surprised to see just how far she's come.

The unabridged audio edition of The Wife's Tale was read by Justin Eyre. Eyre's narration takes us smoothly through the range of Mary Gooch's experiences and emotions. Her rendering of Mary is sympathetic, but the irony and humor of Lansens's writing is not lost. The voices are varied enough to guide the listener without being distracting or intruding.

Thanks to The Book Studio, and especially Bethanne Patrick and Swapna Krisha, for the opportunity.


Anonymous,  4/7/10, 11:08 AM  

Way to go!

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) 4/7/10, 11:23 AM  

Congratulations! That's awesome!

bermudaonion 4/7/10, 11:29 AM  

Oooh! I can't wait to go over there and read it!

Heather 4/7/10, 11:41 AM  

Way to go you!!! Congratulations!

Beth 4/7/10, 11:59 AM  

Congratulations--that's awesome!

Anonymous,  4/7/10, 12:00 PM  

Congratulations to you! You're famous!

Unknown 4/7/10, 12:09 PM  

Congratulations! I enjoyed reading The Girls, so hope to get round to this one at some point.

Margot 4/7/10, 12:25 PM  

Good for you. Congratulations.

My Novel Thoughts 4/7/10, 5:53 PM  

Great review...congratulations! I want to read that book now.

nat @book, line, and sinker 4/7/10, 7:09 PM  

very nice review! i 'weighed in' over on the other blog but must admit that it was a bit trying to do so. the comment form is a bit frustrating. :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 4/7/10, 7:29 PM  

excellent job beth! i loved this book.

Melody 4/7/10, 7:40 PM  

Congratulations! Woohoo! :)

Beth Kephart 4/8/10, 6:24 AM  

When you are really good at what you do......

Beth Hoffman 4/8/10, 9:14 AM  

Congrats! *applause*

Tribute Books 4/8/10, 2:45 PM  

Congrats, thats great!

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