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Book Review: The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

the wife by meg wolitzer

by Harriet Gross

Update 6.12.2021: Now a major motion picture, The Wife, starring Glenn Close, is a wonderful adaptation of the book. If you missed it when it first came out, I recommend you see it as soon as you can! But read the book first – you’ll enjoy the movie that much more.

The Wife by Meg Wolizer

Does anyone but me remember Anthony Weiner? He was the married Congressman from New York who wrecked his own career when he tried to send a (let’s just say) “revealing” picture of himself on Twitter to a 21-year-old college student. But as sometimes happens when senders of such images are in great haste, this one went astray – and also derailed the hopeful politico’s previously promising career.

What I remember most about this shameful story is the TV shot of “Mad Anthony’s” wife standing with him before a judge. Or rather, just a bit behind him, and off to the side, looking as though she’d been crying for weeks. Which she probably had. A classic case of “stand by your man,” I guess. And I could never after that watch TV’s “The Good Wife” without wondering if its title role had been patterned after poor Mrs. Weiner.

I’m recalling all this now because I’ve learned that something wonderful will be coming to the Big Screen on August 1: the movie version of “The Wife.” Meg Wolitzer is a prolific novelist, with more than a dozen eminently readable books to her credit, but none quite like what I consider her best. It was published in 2003 – six years before that “Good Wife” made its small screen debut, and eight in advance of poor Mrs. Weiner, looking like she was trying to make the best of a very bad situation but failing in the attempt.

I will not ruin your enjoyment by giving away The Wife’s plot. But I will say that it’s probably the powerful #MeToo movement that can take credit for its comeback debut on film. And I’m sure, with Glenn Close in the title role, it will be a good and satisfying adaptation. However, I’d like to suggest that you find yourself a copy before Half Price Books and Amazon sell out of the used ones; at the latter, you can get one for just about $2.50 if you hurry. We can all be sure a big batch of brand-new ones will soon be hitting Barnes and Noble, but if you can score an oldie-but-goodie, the content will be the same, and you won’t feel so bad if – while you’re reading, and turning every page quickly to get to the next one – you spill your coffee on it.

However: if you do have to spring for a brand-new, pristine, full-price version, don’t feel too bad; it will be a lifetime investment. I know, because I’ve had my copy for all these 15 years, and I still read it from time to time, so grateful it’s always right there on my shelf. Of course I’ll read it yet again before I go to the Angelika, and will read it another time afterward, to compare the two versions.

The questions “The Wife” raises are whether the main character has made the right choices. Does she “stand by her man” like Anthony Weiner’s wife? Or does she do otherwise? I won’t tell you — only that it takes a Meg Wolitzer to find a really satisfactory answer! And after you’ve read this book, ask yourself what you might do if you found yourself in a similar situation!

originally published June 28, 2018
updated June 1, 2021

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