|Distributed by Raincoast Books|
Emma Chapman’s debut novel How To Be A Good Wife is eerily well paced. The novel introduces us to Marta, a housewife and empty-nester, married to Hector, a man 20 years her senior. Their only son, Kylan, has moved to the city to work in a bank, and Marta is having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that the love of her life may never come back.
But there is more. It’s not just the heartbreak of her son’s departure that’s upset Marta and caused her to go into a depressive state. Hey daily routine seems numbing and rigid, and Emma Chapman has done a wonderful job interjecting Marta’s actions to correlate with the rules from the famous book with the same title. The inner monologue going on in her head juxtaposed against her current situation provides a beautiful, yet sinister insight into her past and present. Whether it’s real or imagined isn’t clear, but we can empathize with the emotional aspect that this has on Marta, and for a first time novelist, Chapman has brilliantly drawn us into Marta’s world of delusions and paranoia.
Hector seems to be a kind, caring husband, making sure she takes her pills so she won’t have her episodes. Defiant Marta pretends to take them, but when Hector isn’t looking spits them out. Her hallucinations seem to escalate, and the heaviness in our heart begrudgingly continues to watch the train wreck as it unfolds, wondering if she will confront her demons.
The novel is heartbreaking. The darkness becomes personal. There is sense of a downward spiral in Marta’s life as she constantly compares her self-worth with the way a wife is supposedly supposed to behave in the book How To Be Good Wife and her head is repeatedly filled with thoughts like, “Once again, I have failed to give him what he needs.”
4/5 Sukasa Stars