THAT is how much I loved The Replacement Wife, by Eileen Goudge.
I loved it in spite of it not being one bit like I thought it was going to be.
I rarely read much about a book before reading it, because I like to be surprised. I knew the basic synopsis of The Replacement Wife - Camille is in her early forties, married to her doctor husband, Edward, and has a matchmaking business. When her cancer comes back, she decides to match up Edward with his second wife, believing that in doing so, she secures care for her children and husband. So I kind of thought that this might be a humorous romantic comedy of sorts.
I was wrong.
The Replacement Wife is the study of a marriage and what it's like to be a single woman pushing forty. It is chock full of engrossing characters who make you want them to be happy, even as you know it will be immensely difficult for them. It's a book that makes you think about what you want for your loved ones after you die, and it makes you question what is selfless and what is selfish.
When Camille discovers that the cancer has returned and is Stage IV, she eschews treatment and instead decides to focus on helping Edward. She believes she must do this, because her own mother passed away when Camille was fourteen, leaving her to take care of her younger sister in the face of an airline pilot, absent father. Camille does not want the loneliness, fear and uncertainty that she experienced to happen to her fourteen-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, so she convinces Edward to let her find him a wife.
Edward is not amused. He balks and resists, but ultimately agrees in an attempt to make Camille's waning months pleasant for her. She first tries to fix him up with Kat, a sexy, successful news anchor who has been very unlucky in love. Kat even tries to come on to Edward, knowing full well about Camille and her dying wish, but Edward gently rebuffs her. It's on to Elise, a divorceé teacher who also believes herself snake bit because her first husband cheated on her. Then there is Angie, the owner of a small catering company, who provides food for Camille's meet and greet socials, but whom Camille is convinced has no interest in love and marriage. Angie vies for Edward's affections on her own, albeit unintentionally at first.
Which one will Edward choose? Or will he choose at all? And what will happen to Camille? How will she manage this shift in their marriage, even if it is her idea?
Eileen Goudge tells the story from the different points of view, but we spend the most time in Camille's and Edward's heads. I found myself not liking Camille all that much. I started rooting for Edward to get together with one of the women just because I thought Camille was selfish and, quite frankly, stupid. Yes, I understand why she's doing this, but it made her off-putting to me. But Edward. I so wanted him to be happy, with whomever he believed could make him - his wife or one of the women.
As for the three contenders, they were nicely developed characters. I rooted for Angie, if only because she was the most fully realized of the group, and there was just something about her that I liked. Her relationship with Edward starts as friendship, when he discovers he can confide in her. I liked that about her. But as I said, I sympathized with Edward a lot. His frustration with this situation affected me.
He thought back to summer days when the kids were small, Kyra and Zach chubby little figures in orange life vests digging for sand crabs or collecting seashells in paper cups. Before cancer had come crashing in, like a rogue wave smashing a sand castle, to lay ruin to their carefree existence.
Before he'd come to feel unwanted by his own wife.
He knew it wasn't because she'd stopped loving him. Still, it hurt each time she turned away from him in bed, too tired or sick to make love. He couldn't recall the last time he'd felt the light touch of her hand on his thigh or heard her voice murmur seductively in his ear. He missed that. Yearned for it. Even so, he might have found a way to deal with his frustration if not for this crazy scheme of hers. What wife who truly loved her husband would willingly relinquish him to another woman, whatever the circumstances?What wife, indeed.
The Replacement Wife is chock full of things to discuss, making it an excellent book club selection. I just loved it.
Published by Open Road and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.