Alafair Burke’s new novel, The Wife, has so many twists and turns it’s like trying to keep track of a runaway train. The story starts out innocently enough – girl (Angela) meets boy (Jason) during a dinner party in the Hamptons. Angela’s company is catering the event; Jason is a guest. A single mother with a son, Angela is not looking for a relationship, let alone a husband. But soon enough, they are married and living in Manhattan.
Jason seems like an incredible catch, a well known economics professor at NYU who, thanks to a bestselling book, becomes a media star. Angela, on the other hand, has a troubled past. The last thing she wants is to be thrust into the spotlight. But Jason’s meteoric rise provides her and her son with a lifestyle she never thought possible, so she manages to adjust, content to play the wife behind (way behind) the successful man. The tragic events that shaped her past are slowly revealed, adding to the anticipation and suspense.
All that comes apart when Jason is accused of inappropriate behavior by a college intern. One allegation might have been dismissed, but when another woman comes forward, Angela must face the possibility that she never really knew the man she married. He proclaims his innocence and there is enough about his denials to keep her in his corner. Others, however, are not so forgiving. He loses his media job and then his professorship. With his legal bills mounting, he and Angela may lose everything they have.
Burke has a talent for constructing plots that are believable and keep the reader guessing until the end. She also manages to weave into her stories topics that are dominating headlines and social media. With one of her previous novels, All Day and a Night, the role DNA evidence plays in convictions was a theme. In The Wife, it’s sexual harassment, making this novel a timely addition to our reading list.
Alafair Burke’s photo by Deborah Copaken Kogan