In and Out of Love with You

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more thrillers, and I’m making good on that promise. In fact, three of the last four books, including my most recent, could fall into this category. I love a good thriller or mystery because of how they intensify your emotions and captivate you. My Husband’s Wife had all of those elements. I finished the book in a week — though I admit I started reading it a few months ago but put it on hold for another attention-grabber. Once I started again, I experienced more than one night when I would tell myself “one more chapter” about five times. It kept me on my toes with its twists and turns and heightened my senses.

You’re probably wondering why, if this was a book I couldn’t put down, I only assigned it three flames? I know, that sounds like four- or five-flame material. Although I mostly enjoyed reading this book, it had a few head-scratching qualities that brought down its overall rating. If you’re looking for a quick, mysterious read, this is a solid book. Sometimes that’s exactly what we want, especially during the summer. But if you’re looking for that plus some brilliant writing and stunning plots from start to finish, you might want to keep searching.

My Husband's Wife

“When you’re constantly prepared for things to go wrong, it’s a shock when they go right.” — My Husband’s Wife

Lily married her now-husband, Ed, only six months after meeting. She’s always been independent and afraid to get too close to anyone — afraid that her past secrets will come tumbling out or that she’ll repeat those mistakes. But with Ed, hopefully she can start anew.

The story begins with Lily, a young lawyer, on her way to meet her first criminal client, Joe Thomas. He’s been convicted of murder but is trying to appeal and needs Lily to get the job done. He tests her more than ever before just to prove she’s right for the job. Joe has his own secrets, he plays mind games, and he will stay with Lily the rest of her life even if she doesn’t know it.

At home, Ed and Lily, who are learning that marriage is hard and that maybe they rushed things (gee, ya think?), meet nine-year-old Carla and her mother, Francesca. Born in Italy, they have immigrated to the U.K. to escape Francesca’s past and are pretty good at deceiving to get what they want. The combined secrets and lies of mother, daughter, Ed, Lily, and Joe will affect one another and will connect them to the point of no return — even 12 years later when everyone thinks they’ve moved on from the past. This book is full of infidelity, too many lies and puzzling decisions to count, and more than one death.

This last sentence is what makes My Husband’s Wife so intriguing but also somewhat frustrating. More on that negative characteristic in a minute.

Clearly, Jane Corry wants to keep her readers guessing and yearning for more, and she succeeds at that. She has created a lot of characters who are intertwined in various ways, and when you’re least expecting it, she flips the story, throws a curveball, etc., etc., etc. And that’s how a good thriller should be.

“Who knows where blame really lies? It’s never as simple as it seems.” — My Husband’s Wife

You’re not meant to really like any of the characters; their lack of sound judgment usually catalyzes the messes that surround them anyways. You’re supposed to “tsk” at all of the affairs and question how husband and wife can treat each other so terribly. You’re expected to throw up your hands when one character makes such a poor decision that you know will have consequences. And your eyes are meant to reach the top of your forehead when those decisions turn out differently than you had anticipated, especially when that means death. This is what a good thriller does. In that vein, Corry delivers a good read.

But she also throws one too many curveballs, includes one too many characters, and builds one too many connections. There’s a lot in her book, and, at times, especially at the end, it’s hard to follow. I love and appreciate a solid mind game, but more than once I found myself thinking “Now that’s just not realistic” or “Enough is enough.”

The unnecessary drama — mixed with imperfect writing — was a bit much for me. I know mysteries and thrillers are meant to have the drama, but this novel kicks it into extreme overdrive. To be fair, I only felt this way the last 60 or so pages, which is unfortunate, because I thoroughly enjoyed the book up to that point. It’s always the ending that sticks with you though, and it’s what I remember the most while I review.

“The fact that you no longer have a right to grieve for someone you once shared your life with makes the pain even worse. ” — My Husband’s Wife

Kirkus Reviews has far more critical things to say than I do.

“Unsavory, unrepentant characters interspersed in a plot that’s as predictable as it is far-fetched make for an uninspiring read.”

OK, now Kirkus has gone too far. Corry deserves more credit than what Kirkus has given her. Yes, the characters are “unrepentant,” but I don’t find that out of line with most thrillers I read. And yes, the plot is far-fetched — at some points, more than others — but I didn’t find it predictable. Regardless of any unfavorable qualities, the proof is in the pudding, and the truth is that I was actively engaged in this book and mostly enjoyed reading it. It just wasn’t the best book I had ever read. My Husband’s Wife veers far from perfection but still satisfies, making it good for a quick read, especially during these summer months.


One thought on “In and Out of Love with You

  1. Pingback: Ranked: Reads in 2019 | Big Little Literature

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