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by Seraphina Nova Glass
HarperCollins, January 2021
336 pages
ISBN: 1525896016

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

SUCH A GOOD WIFE presents us with plot informed by social issues, where class distinctions disrupt law and order, and privilege seems to be a double-edged sword. Readers will immediately recognize that Melanie is not just a good wife, she's an impossibly good wife.

Clearly, Mel is in danger of losing herself. Enter the attractive outsider, Luke, who comes along to lead Mel back to her "true self": the sexually available intelligent woman she was before her hardworking husband, Collin, installed her in their big house amongst dull neighbors, saddled with caring for his mom and the kids. There’s nothing new in that aspect of the plot: bored housewife rescued from emotional labor-camp by an exciting guy who sees past her humdrum exterior.

However, Glass throws us plenty of curves in the form of complex characters with unexpected motives when a violent murder leads Mel beyond the familiar part of her hometown. Gradually we begin to see that nearly everyone in this tale exists behind a social façade that obscures both the best and worst of their true selves.

Things really take off when a chance encounter with Lacy, another mom, and an old flame from high school, Joe.

With multifaceted characters, Glass presents us with a plausible murder mystery set against a deceptively comfortable backdrop of small-town, middle class life. While a main murder drives the narrative, readers will find themselves emotionally invested in resolving several other unsavory crimes Mel uncovers on her journey from full time wife and mother to secret super-sleuth. Corrupt cops, savvy strippers, a book group that never reads, a paranoid author and another struggling mom seeking masculine validation provide plenty of entertainment as well as food for thought.

Moral ambiguity appears around every corner in this Southern town, and Mel is eventually confronted with an uncomfortable realization about her marriage and her life. Being such a good wife doesn't necessarily mean being a such good citizen.

Only when Mel steps out of her own comfort zone and crosses the tracks do we begin to see how sinister her own status quo actually has become, and when Mel begins to use the considerable resources she has at hand, she proves that no one has to be glamorous to be effective.

§ Originally from the misty atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, Alison Gates is a working artist and a college professor by day. She occasionally reviews art exhibitions for Surface Design Journal, or books on scholarly subjects for Resources for Gender and Women’s Studies: A Feminist Review. At night, she becomes an avid mystery and crime fiction reader at her cozy home in Northeast Wisconsin.

Reviewed by Alison Gates, December 2021

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