A man, his jealous ex-wife who desperately wants to stop him from remarrying, and his beautiful new young fiancé are at the heart of a complicated love triangle in The Wife Between Us, the new thriller by authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. But is this really true? Can we trust the narrators of this story? Or are we being fooled into thinking something is real, when it isn’t?
The story is told from the points of view of Nelly and Vanessa, two women, very similar on the outside who have loved the same man. Richard is a smooth-talking, debonair, financially successful, with an imposing personality. He makes Nelly feel safe. With Vanessa the relationship has deteriorated; where there was love, now there is resentment and mistrust.
There is also fear.
But who watches whom? Who is the stalker and who the prey? Whom can we believe?
This is a difficult book to review without giving anything away. From the very first page, we know that it’s a tale of obsession but it’s also filled with smoke and mirrors, so many twists and turns you’ll think you’re in that creepy maze from The Shining. But halfway into the book, we know what is really happening, or at least we think we do. And it’s here when we can’t help but be in awe of Hendricks and Pekkanen’s talent for fooling us so deliciously and so deliberately, while we innocently fell for it.
Pekkanen’s previous novels Skipping a Beat and The Perfect Neighbors, have shown a similar type of unexpected events. With The Wife Between Us she’s definitely upped her game, this time with debut co-author Hendricks. Nelly and Vanessa are complex and difficult characters but not in a way that the reader will find them unrelatable or unlikeable. Richard is different, and when things about his past are finally revealed, we know that as a readers, we’ve been played.
Something we know for certain is that Vanessa wants to stop this wedding at all cost. She cannot allow Richard to marry her replacement, a word that carries more meaning than we first realize. But her reasons for wanting this marriage stopped go beyond jealousy and betrayal, and it’s only through Vanessa’s flashbacks that we suddenly come to see that we’ve been wearing a blindfold. The truth is stranger and more shocking than we could possibly have predicted because in Vanessa and Richard’s marriage, it’s more about what we think we see than the real truth.
The unreliable narrator has made quite a comeback in recent years. Paula Hawkins’ Girl on a Train and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl have become staples for the narrators that we can’t completely trust. But what’s different in The Wife Between Us is that we never know the complete truth until we turn the last page, and this is not a hyperbolic statement. We think we know everything when we come to the final chapter, the truth about Richard, Vanessa and Nelly. But we don’t. There are new players to be discovered, new secrets to be revealed, and the question again surges: Who manipulated whom?
The prologue in The Wife Between Us, goes like this:
She is oblivious to what I have done to her
She is unaware of the damage I have wrought; the ruin I have set in motion.
To this beautiful young woman with the heart-shaped face and lush body—the woman my husband Richard, left me for—I’m as invisible as the pigeon scavenging on the sidewalk next to me.
She has no idea what will happen to her if she continues like this.
None at all.
If you believe you know what’s happening in this scene…you know nothing. You’ll have to peel away the layers of mirage to get to the truth, which will likely leave you gaping. Hendricks and Pekkanen have conjured up a tightly-woven farce that you won’t be likely to forget or to put aside. They shift the story over and over again, like a magician’s box.
And we’re the awed spectators, waiting anxiously to see what’s on the other side.