***MILD SPOILERS AHEAD***
“In the book, Amy said, ‘I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.’ Well, I’ve never feared bad weather, either.” Then my aunt does one of the bravest things I have ever seen. She smiles. There was a time when I felt reading a thriller would give me stress and well, nightmares. But then last year, The Silent Patient happened to me and it opened a world of psychological thrillers for me, one which I would come to like, if not love, in the following months. Since then, I had been on the lookout for some good thriller stories, something that just wouldn’t give me a good time while reading but also gave me something to think about. Lockdown, huh, too much time.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen caught my eye recently, and I couldn’t wait to read it the moment it came up on my kindle. I wouldn’t say it is a psychological thriller but suspense with psycho characters. It leads us on to the story of Vanessa and Richard, a once happily married couple, now divorced, and the dynamics that follow them all when he decides to marry his new girlfriend.
Vanessa is depressed. An alcoholic and penniless after her mysterious break-up, and she is barely able to hold her job at Saks. Her cause of misery? Richard, her ex, is finally marrying the girl he picked up after their divorce. And this is bothering her a lot. As much as she’d like to move forward and leave her past behind, she can’t. Because her past is strewn with broken pieces that she can’t seem to explain, let alone pick up and move.
Nellie is the young fiancee whom we meet. As she approaches her wedding day with Richard, she can’t let go of the feeling that she is being watched. She hasn’t met Richard’s ex yet, and he doesn’t talk much about it except that she is perfect, while the former wasn’t what he was made to believe.
As Nellie moves towards her Big D, so does Vanessa. And when they meet, they collide head-on in a labyrinth of deception.
There have been several comparisons of this book to The Girl on The Train/Gone Girl and honestly, having read the former and watched the latter when the movie was released, I can see why. An unreliable female narrator who unravels in her own alcohol-infused downward spiral? Check. Separated/divorced/ran away from her abusive ex? Check. A second female presence? Check. Promises of twists, turns, and reveals that would leave the reader speechless? Not so much. What begun as a supremely exciting thriller for me, soon turned out to be highly predictable once I figured out the first major reveal. Just 30% into the book and I was reeling under my own detection of the so-called deception by the authors. God, why did I have to read between the lines and figure things out!? Too many thrillers have spoilt me for mediocre ones. Trust me, it wasn’t fun at all to read it further. Every twist thereafter was just a confirmation of what I had assumed, except the epilogue, where another twist was thrust upon. Several subplots with the characters’ own mysterious past/present are thrown in only to lure the reader into a shady thrill. I didn’t find them necessary tbh.
The characters are limited, it is mostly Vanessa and Nellie who take the center stage, and people around them keep moving in and out. I believe this allowed the authors to focus on the development of their characters rather than simply making them shallow for the sake of numbers. They do a good job with them. Vanessa’s gradual decline to rock bottom, Nellie’s unattached girl next door image to a person in love, Richard as the brooding yet generous alpha, oh, how much I enjoyed reading as their layers unfolded. It is a different thing that I was expecting all of it, but the fact remains that for those readers who haven’t read the books which I have mentioned before, this book will be enjoyable and also give you closure. Yes, it is one of those few books that come full circle. The only part that nagged me till the end was the relationship between Richard and his sister Maureen, something which the authors have left for the readers to assume, and this time, they don’t guide the way.
This story isn’t about twisting the readers’ brains. It isn’t about anything psychologically haunting within its pages. It isn’t about a deranged ex-wife trying to seek revenge and ruin her replacement’s chance of happiness with the man she once loved. No. This is the story of abuse. Emotional, mental, physical abuse, which ultimately leads to psychological imbalances in the victim. While this book wasn’t a great thrilling read for me, I’d still recommend this to you for the sole reason that it will make you open your eyes, if not create transparent awareness, to the people around you, and push you to understand why they are doing what they are doing.