3.5 out of 5 stars.
Having just read an advance copy of Jennifer Murphy’s “I Love You More” I was curious to see how Alice LaPlante would approach her novel, “A Circle of Wives,” about three women who all discover they’ve been “married” to the same, recently deceased man. (Side note, men with multiple wives… maybe these two novels should be treated as cautionary tales; in both the husband is no longer in the land of the living.) Both books focus on unraveling the mystery of the husband’s death, though LaPlante takes a different path than Murphy- choosing to narrate her novel from the perspective of each individual wife, and the young, junior detective assigned to the murder case.
What struck me as funny about both “A Circle of Wives” and “I Love You More,” is that each novel was less about the relationship between husband and wife, and more about the inter-dynamics of “the other women.” LaPlante paints believeable scenarios and encounters that pull the reader in. I did not think I was going to like her naive detective, but found that she was a character that grew on me by the end of the novel. I also appreciate that she gets her own story arc and satisfying resolution.
All of the female characters in LaPlante’s novel get equal treatment and attention. Though initially I feared that the cast was a little stereotypical (the “hippie wife”, the “first” wife, etc), I was pleasantly surprised at how they developed. If anyone gets the short-end of the stick, it’s Dr. John Taylor, who is at the center of this circle of wives. Though we get a good idea of who he was, or at least how he portrayed himself, he’s never quite fully in focus.
Overall, I really enjoyed “A Circles of Wives”- though would love to one day read a novel with this premise told from the man’s POV. (Seriously, I would love to know what makes someone think it’s a good idea to take on three wives…)
I got my copy of “A Circle of Wives” from the NY Public Library, where it is currently on shelves, or you can purchase yours from Amazon.com.
xo The Book Bird