How To Be a Good Wife

How To Be a Good Wife - Emma  Chapman Marta has never been completely well but her husband, Hector, has always been there to take care of her. He makes sure she takes her medications. He makes sure she gets her rest. He makes sure she doesn’t smoke. He makes sure she has enough to do to keep her at home. Having been given a copy of “How To Be A Good Wife” as a wedding gift by her mother-in-law, Marta strives to be just that. Then, when their son leaves for university Marta discovers that as attentive as Hector is, he can no longer fill the emptiness of her days. Whether as a conscious decision or just on a whim, Marta decides that she wants to know what life would be like without her medication. That’s when the trouble seems to start. She begins to see an apparition of a young girl who is seemingly trying to tell her something. The longer she only pretends to be swallowing her little pills the stronger the apparition seems to appear. Finally Marta starts to think that things are not normal around the house that she so meticulously keeps.

It is difficult to describe this book without totally ruining the experience for future readers. It has been described as a psychological thriller – which it is. It has been described as a look into a schizophrenic and a paranoid mind – which it is. It has been described as a treatise on a long marriage and “empty nest” syndrome – which (maybe) it is. All of that and it is a chilling read!

The book is well written. I particularly enjoyed the author’s use of short, staccato sentences to convey Marta’s fear and anxiety about not understanding her visions. As Marta becomes more comfortable with the visions and more confident in herself, her thoughts, and the sentences, become more fluid. Intentional (or not?) on the part of Ms. Chapman that aspect of the writing definitely drew me in. When I began reading this book I thought that this might be one of the few books I put away without finishing. I mean it contained archaic quotes from a manual on how to be a good wife: “A man’s home is his castle and as such, he ought to be treated like a king.” These interspersed between descriptions of a perfectly submissive homemaker and mother. But as I kept reading I realized Marta was a deeply troubled soul trying to make sense of a life than (to her) no longer makes any sense at all. As the book progressed I wavered between cheering for Marta and her independence and feeling sorry for Hector for having an ungrateful and crazy wife. Then, when the proverbial dime dropped I didn’t know what to think any more? It was a great feeling!

I’ve mentioned before in my reviews that I am one of those readers who like to have the end of a book tied up in a pretty pink ribbon. This book certainly does not fit that criteria, but it definitely succeeded in leaving me wondering if my assumptions about Marta were right or wrong and, in this case, that was the perfect ending. As I write this review the book still plays in my head and I still cannot decide on what I believe. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Room or Before I Go To Sleep.