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Book Review: The Replacement Wife

Posted by gck Tuesday, April 10, 2012

replacementwifeThe Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge

Genre: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: **** (out of 5)
Recommended for: Fans of Emily Giffin, people who like more serious chick lit
Received ARC e-galley through NetGalley.

Back-cover summary:
Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal—she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.

But what happens when a dying wish becomes a case of “be careful what you wish for”? For Edward and Camille, the stunning conclusion arrives with one last twist of fate that no one saw coming.

My review:
You’ve got a woman with cancer in a loving relationship who decides to find a replacement wife for her gorgeous, successful husband. He’s not into the idea, but once his mind opens to the thought of other women, he starts noticing other women. It’s clear pretty early on that there’s no way that this story is going to have a happy ending for everyone. And as the characters get more and more tangled into their stupid but well-meaning web, the reader can only wait for the inevitable train wreck.

This is a good book. But it’s also a tricky book. From the description and the genre, I expected it to be a mostly light, shallow read with some cheap emotional manipulation. This was not the case. Of course, in the many hundreds of pages, there are many that are easily skimmable, but I felt like it was hard-hitting and realistic in the issues that it explored. The reason why it’s tricky is because, despite being good, it’s a difficult book to like. I would compare this to Emily Giffin’s Heart of the Matter, which I actually stopped reading because I knew that there was no way the book was going to resolve itself in a manner that would make me happy. This book is the same way. I knew right away that it was going to make me mad.

As a reader of chick lit, I find myself expecting things to be a certain way. It doesn’t need to be a happy, tidy ending, but we expect to see people get what they deserve, both good and bad. In The Replacement Wife, it’s more like real life. People just get what they get. No one’s a real villain, and no one’s a real saint. It’s frustrating and sad to watch mostly well-intentioned people causing each other to suffer when it isn’t fair or for any noble purpose. Who do you cheer for, when one person’s happiness means an equally deserving person’s misery?

Viewing the novel as a whole, however, I see a theme. There are a lot of beginnings and endings that occur. Though it’s not satisfying to see good things unfairly come to an end, it’s relieving to see that bad deeds that people do aren’t punished forever, either. It seems like the whole idea is that there is no karma, that things happen randomly in life, and all we can do is hang on and make the most of it.

What can I say? How many chick lit books evoke that strong of a response? I think it speaks loudly for the strength of the author’s character development and writing. This would be an excellent book for a book club because everyone is bound to have something to say.

The premise itself is also really compelling – a matchmaker diagnosed with terminal cancer finding a replacement wife for her husband. Here’s a video of the author, Eileen Goudge, talking about the book:

1 Responses to Book Review: The Replacement Wife

  1. Ooh, love your review and completely agree with everything you had to say about the book. It just played havoc with my mind.


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