The Better Half

As I said in my post on Caramelo, even though I’m reading a boatload of novels this year I really enjoy short stories. I buy the Best American Short Stories as soon as it comes out and print out the short stories that the Atlantic and the New Yorker post to their websites. I love the fact that the length of the format forces the author to write more concisely. The very best of them leave you wanting more and, in the space of about twenty pages, make you think about the lives the characters lead after the story is over.

Meg Wolitzer’s short story work was one of the reasons that I picked her latest novel, The Wife, as book number 51 in my drive to read 52 novels this year. I’m glad I did. The Wife is a full-length novel written in the concise style of a short story. The novel deals with the sacrifices made by the wife of a famous (and womanizing) author. Although the novel takes place over the fifty years of their marriage, the book moved quickly and smoothly. It never felt bogged down and I never found myself checking how much more I had to go. That’s saying something when you’re on your fifty-first book of the year.

Wolitzer has written a book about authors and publishing over the decades without requiring a B.A. in Literature to appreciate the story. Even lighter literary novels like Lost in a Good Book suffer from obscure (at least to me) references. Rather than placing her characters in the middle of historic authors, Wolitzer creates an entirely fictional circle of writer friends for the author and his wife.

The Wife is a very believable, funny, and well written novel with a great surprise revelation at the end. I finished this book thinking about the characters lives after the story had ended, just like I do after reading a good short story.

Next up is novel number 52! Woo hoo! I have eleven weeks to finish Personality by Andrew O’Hagan. Just in case it doesn’t take that long (and it better not) I also picked up Audrey Niffenegger’s epic-sized The Time Traveler’s Wife.


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