Saturday, March 9, 2013

Alice's Review: The Ninth Wife

Summary: In The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls, Bess Gray has just learned that the man she loves, the man who asked for her hand in marriage, has been married eight times before. This funny, touching, and surprising novel follows Bess on her cross-country odyssey to learn about her oft-wed fiancé from the eight ex-spouses who came before. Stolls, an acclaimed author of Young Adult novels and winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award brilliantly explores the very grown-up world of male-female relationships and family dynamics in the delightful, unforgettable new masterwork of contemporary women’s fiction.

Review:  Single 35-year-old Bess who has been unlucky in love finally meets the man of her dreams in charismatic Irish ex-pat Rory.  Rory is just about perfect except for one thing, he as eight ex-wives.  Yes, eight.   Deciding if she wants to be Wife No. 9 is the premise of Amy Stolls’ novel The Ninth Wife.

I enjoyed the alternating chapters in the first part of the book.  The chapters alternated between Bess and Rory.  Rory’s chapters gave us a play by play of his failed eight marriages.  It was a smart way to do this because we learn about Rory’s past from his point of view.  However, it gave Rory an unfair advantage because we only knew what Rory wanted to tell us.  Everyone knows there are always three sides to a story:  His side, her side, and the truth.  During Bess’s hunt for the other wives, we really didn’t find out anything we didn’t already know about them. 

As charming as Rory was and as someone who believed in the sanctity of marriage, he sure did make a mockery of it.  Of the eight marriages, I felt that only three were based on love and had a good foundation.  The rest made no sense whatsoever.  I think the other thing that troubled me about Rory was he came across as a bit insincere, especially towards the end of the novel.  I can’t help but wonder what I would have done in Bess’s  place.  I probably would have run for the hills.  Although I liked Rory, I thought he was a player hidden behind a charming façade.  He seemed too good to be true. 

The shining stars in the novel were Bess’s grandparents, Irving and Millie.  60 plus years of marriage was told beautifully on the pages.  Their story was very interesting.  They made me want to turn the pages and find out more about their history.  Millie especially was such a fascinating character.  I was thankful Ms. Stolls fully explored her.  I also enjoy Irving.  He made me wish I still had a grandfather like him.  Their story carried this novel.  On the same token, Bess’s friend Cricket did nothing to advance The Ninth Wife.  He served more as a distraction than anything else.  In my opinion, he could have been written out completely.  He was a filler character, the token gay best friend. 

I really believe this novel could have benefited from a 100-page cut back. As much as I enjoyed it, there was only so much I could take of Bess waxing nostalgia about her life.  It was very drawn out, but then again that’s how life is.  Sometimes we may think we dealt with something but our issues pop up when we least expect it, rearing their ugly heads and making us face them once again. 

Looking back on this review, I accept that it is a bit all over the place.  I liked the novel but didn’t love it.  I liked Bess but thought she was making a huge mistake in considering becoming the ninth wife.  That alone is probably why my review is unfavorable.  I loved her grandparents, but couldn’t figure out why Ms. Stolls included Cricket in the mix.   It was an interesting premise but lacked focus.  I can’t really say if you should read it or not.  Irving and Millie were great but is it enough?  Perhaps.  On the other hand, since each novel is a personal experience, maybe you will get something from this that I didn’t.  

Final Take: 3/5



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