By: Stacia Pelletier
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 2017
Reviewed by: Diana Buss
Review Date: May 9, 2017
Henry Plageman finds himself waking up in a prison cell for disorderly conduct on one of the most important days of his entire year. A day that runs on schedules and routines, on never stopping and always fighting. This year would have been the sixteenth birthday of Henry and Marilyn’s son, Jack, who tragically died at the age of two. After being pushed away by his wife for two years after their loss and losing his job as a reverend - the only reason he and Marilyn moved to San Francisco - he met Lucy. Each Wednesday, Henry would work late, telling Marilyn he was taking care of the accounting when he was really seeing Lucy. In Lucy, he found comfort, love and an escape, and soon after, a daughter named Blue. The longer the affair goes on, the more painstaking it becomes to maintain their relationship. Hiding it from Marilyn isn’t too difficult, but keeping Lucy and Blue happy is near impossible. Blue is struggling to process the broken relationship between her father and mother, and Lucy is craving a relationship that doesn’t need to be held in secret. This year, there will be no more hiding.
Each year on this day, Henry’s plan is to spend the morning planting flowers at his son’s grave, with help from Lucy, while his wife is volunteering. And each year, the plan is for Henry to meet Marilyn at 2 o’clock to take her to see her son. By 2 o’clock, Lucy will be gone, gone long before anyone can find out about her, or about his daughter. This year, things will be drastically different. There will be no Lucy at the grave to help him, there will be no familiar routine, there will be no more secrets. On the day of Jack’s birth and death, the truth will be unearthed, and along with the truth, so might their son.
At first, The Half Wives is slow to start and difficult to keep up with. This is mostly because it takes some time for the characters and the story to be developed. Once the characters are all introduced and the story begins to get clearer, it becomes easier to understand and put yourself in their place. Blue is the most likeable character, as her childlike innocence and confusion about her life is easily understandable to the reader. The dysfunctional love triangle between Henry, Marilyn and Lucy, while it affects them all, affects Blue the most and it is easy to see this through her actions and behavior. It is easy to empathize with all of the characters because each of them has been affected in a different way. Henry, pushed away by his wife, strays to another woman who loves him madly and deeply. Lucy, desperate in her love for him stays around, though she needs more than he can give her. And Marilyn, hurt deeply by the loss of her son and the circumstances, blames her husband. The reader can't help but understand everyone's point of view and what led them to the path they are on, but it will also lead them to wonder just when enough is enough.
Quill says: Although The Half Wives is slow to start, it's more than worth sticking with. The stories of Henry, Marilyn, Lucy and Blue are real, relatable and expertly tied together