Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Paul Starr, Ireland's leading cardiologist dies in a car crash with a pregnant young woman by his side. United in their grief and the love of one man, four women are thrown together in an attempt to come to terms with life after Paul. They soon realise they never really knew him at all. The love they shared for Paul in his life and which incensed a feeling of mistrust and dislike for each other, in his death turns into the very thing that bonds them and their children to each other, forever. As they begin to form unlikely friendships, Paul's death proves to be the catalyst that enables them to become the people they always wanted to be.
Faith Hogan's début novel My Husband's Wives was published last year solely on Kindle but now it is getting a full paperback release. I had read Faith's second book Secrets We Keep a few months ago and really enjoyed it so I was delighted to get the chance to read something new (well to me anyway) so soon whilst waiting for book three to arrive.
My Husband's Wives opens with a corker of a line that makes the reader instantly sit up and pay close attention 'Mum, there's a funny old lady at the door who says she's married to Dad?' Despite this being the first line of the book I had numerous questions running through my head and I wanted the answers straight away. Instead we are drip fed these answers throughout the first half of the book whereas the second half provided for lots and lots of character development, interaction between the main players, the resolving of problems and coming to some form of acceptance.
Judging this book on its first line would be wrong though I felt I did for quite some time, I expected a fast paced story full of twists and turns, revelations, revenge and anguish. I didn't get that at all and when I realised this book was written with more of a slower pace and more of a focus on the women left behind by man whom they adored, I found myself relaxing more into their story. Even though parts of it niggled at me as I thought some of the women were so gullible in what they believed. The fact that Paul Starr had 'multiple wives' wasn't the main crux of the story it was more how these three very different women dealt with the absence of the man they loved and learned to 'live' with one another and form some sort of bond/friendship.
Grace Kennedy, a successful artist caught Paul Starr's, one of the most successful surgeons in Ireland, eye across a gallery room and that was it. A deep connection was formed and they became inseparable, it was love at first sight and Grace believed it would always last. Paul claimed he was in a loveless marriage with Evie and that soon he would be free to marry Grace. Grace had Deliah and when we meet the characters Deliah is now 15. Grace's relationship with her daughter has improved since the early days after her birth where Grace sank to a low place but throughout it all Paul was there for her. Grace and Paul appeared to have it all until young starlet Annalise caught Paul's eye and soon Paul had departed Grace's house for pastures new leaving Grace devastated but surely now knowing how Evie must have felt. What begins to bind these three women together is the news that Paul has been killed in a car crash. If that's not bad enough there was a young woman believed to be Annalise with him at the time of the accident. It turns out to be Kasia, a young girl from Romania which begs the question has Paul's wandering eye began to rove once more?
I know I was meant to feel some sympathy towards the women that Paul had died but to be honest I think all three/four were better off without him. Even if it does transpire fairly early on that Kasia wasn't Paul's new bit on the side. Paul just seemed such a coward that he could treat women the way he did and keep so many secrets from them. Each woman believed something to be true only to discover no that wasn't the case and here they are in a group forced to confront issues and feelings they would rather not when the real person they wish to direct their anger towards is gone and won't be coming back. Paul although he may have been an expert in his field didn't treat women the way they ought to be treated, he seemed to think he could have his cake and eat it too. His lies could have spared much heartache but then on the other side if he hadn't been the way he was, the women would never have met and the bond and unique friendship could never have been formed. That said although we never actually heard from Paul's viewpoint I didn't like him at all and could barely comprehend the respect and adulation Grace, Evie and Annalise had for him.
I liked Kasia as a character the most and her storyline seemed the best to me. It showed another side to men but also to how women can rally together and help each other out in the times when needed the most. The twist to her storyline I did not see coming but I thought it fitted in well with everything else going on and in a slight way was redemptive of somebody else. Annalise the third wife wasn't happy with the revelations that ensued following Paul's death and to be honest she came across as a complete bimbo whose 'celeb' career was in the doldrums and someone who couldn't do anything for herself. She seemed to complain an awful not and just get on with things and try and work things out the way Evie and Grace were. Annalsie needed to grow a backbone and gather herself together for her children and maybe although tragic to loose one's partner this is the time when with the help of the most unexpected of allies she can finally start to be the woman she was meant to be.
Evie the 'first wife' seemed so gentle and it took me ages to realise she was old compared to the other two women which must have made Paul older too. The way she was written I felt she was much much younger than she was. Evie wasn't happy in her life and although Paul had not being living with her for so many years I felt she was still mourning the loss of the relationship she had with Paul even though he had clearly more than moved on. Evie was in a delicate state of mind and clearly needed help and support. She was aimlessly lost and couldn't be the one perhaps Grace, Annalise and even Kaisa would have looked too.
My Husband's Wives was an enjoyable enough read but perhaps a little too slow for my liking. Normally I would fly through a book but I found myself dipping in and out of this one as it never fully grabbed my attention even though the premise sounded brilliant. I do like a book with emotion and getting beyond that outer layer of a character but this was just too slow and I think perhaps there was one too many characters as I did become confused at some stages. Essentially this is a good read but having already read The Secrets We Keep I found it to be much better but others may differ in their view. There's no doubt though that Faith Hogan is a bright new Irish talent and I will certainly read more of her books in the future. I'm still waiting to find that one Irish person who could fill the huge gaping hole left by our beloved Maeve Binchy and with time Faith Hogan could be a strong contender.
Many thanks to Faith Hogan and Gill Hess publishers for my copy of My Husband's Wives to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.