Sometimes when I’m bored I scavenge Barnes and Noble’s website looking for what I call “book oddities”. What I mean by this are books that completely shock me plot-wise. These could be off the wall, like Fifty Shades of Grey, or quite depressing like The Replacement Wife. Every once in a while I feel that I need a book to give me a good cry. After reading the plot of The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge, I felt as if I found a book that fit the bill.
Camille Hart thought she had been through it all. She endured a rough childhood that included her mother’s death at an early age, inadequate parenting by her vacant father, and later, cancer. These were all things that she had fought through and came out intact. So much so that she is the strong pillar of support for her husband Edward and their two children. She runs a successful matchmaking business in Manhattan, and can finally rest after knowing that the hardest part of her life is behind her. Only this isn’t the case. Cancer rears its ugly head once again, and this time the doctors say it’s terminal. Knowing that her husband will crumble without her there to support the family, Camille makes the hardest decision she’s ever had to make in her life: she decides to find a woman to be her replacement and her husband’s new wife once she is gone. Methodically attacking the task, Camille sorts through potential matches for her husband, and even invites a woman over for dinner and numerous “dates” that she feels is a great candidate to become her replacement wife. Edward is completely against the idea, but realizes that if he does not want to spend the rest of his wife’s short life fighting over this, he must agree to compromise and consider accepting this woman. During one of these so-called compromises, he attends a matchmaking meeting where he meets Angie, a woman he begins to form a steady friendship with unbeknownst to Camille. What will happen to Camille and Edward’s relationship?
If you don’t want to read spoilers I’d suggest you stop reading now!
I had a TON of issues with this book. As I stated before, sometimes you need a good cry. Going into this novel I knew it wasn’t going to be a happy-go-lucky experience. However, I did not expect to want to bang my head against a wall for most of the reading. Starting out, I understood why Camille wanted to find someone for her husband to lean on when she passed. The background and flashbacks you’re given of the first time she went through cancer are signs enough that Edward would need serious help once she passed. I understood Camille’s wishes and wants, although that was about all I understood about her character. She tells Edward of her plan and her wishes and he (understandably) is 100% against it. Edward, being a doctor himself, knows that there is a small chance she could beat the cancer and holds out hope for a clinical trial of some sort. While I feel for Camille going through cancer I stopped caring about her feelings when she became driven to find Edward a new wife. It became the only thing on her mind. Edward tries to convince her to go for new treatment methods and look for clinical trials, but she won’t budge. All she cares about is making sure her “find” meshes with her family! I’m sorry but a marriage isn’t over until someone is in the ground or there are irreconcilable differences.
Edward, on the other hand, meets Angie and begins a secret friendship with her – this I kinda got. He wanted to have something that Camille wasn’t controlling, wasn’t searching for deeper meaning in. Angie begins falling for Edward and vice versa. I was really hoping that Edward wouldn’t turn out to be “that guy” who cheats on his wife while she is going through cancer (a la John Edwards), but alas my heart was seriously disappointed. Is it sick that I understood why he cheated though and didn’t hold it against him a full 100%? His wife has given up on their marriage, given up on their family, and more importantly given up on fighting to survive. If I was Edward I’d be pretty damn depressed too, looking for any outlet that bought joy into my life.
Besides all of my issues with the above I COULDN’T STAND THE ENDING. Camille’s doctor winds up finding some clinical trial for her to join that he doesn’t think will really do anything. It’s more about appeasing Edward at this point. Guess what – 6 months into her clinical trial HER CANCER DISAPPEARS. COME ON NOW. YOU’RE SERIOUSLY GOING TO END THIS WAY!?!?!? Yes folks, she survives. Edward and Camille decide to divorce knowing that Edward loves another woman now and that Camille has thrown away any love that Edward had ever given her. When I got to the end of the novel I legitimately wanted to fling my nook against the wall. It honestly felt like a scapegoat of an ending, trying to give everyone what they wanted/needed.
To sum up my thoughts:
– The writing of the novel is great. Strong writing skills, great vocabulary – these kept me going with the story.
– Unique storyline – You can’t fault the author for writing something 100% out of the box. I tip my hat to Goudge for trying to be different.
– There is not one ounce of anything in me that feels for these characters. Beyond feeling for Camille going through cancer, I didn’t connect with any of the characters, nor did I feel for them when conflict/misgivings/unhappiness came their way. They all deserve the messes they got themselves in.
In short, although Goudge’s writing is technically superb and her plot is unique, the character development threw me off base. This is a purely personal reaction, however, so I suggest that you see for yourself how these characters strike you. You may just end up having the opposite reaction. For me, however, this is one I won’t be re-reading anytime soon.
2 out of 5 Stars
This is my ninth completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge
The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge
Open Road Publishing (2012)
eBook: 482 pages