The Wife’s Tale – Lori Lansens – Book Review

The Wife’s Tale by Lori Lansens – LLMT, Inc., copyright 2009.

Publisher: Virago

Pages: 373

Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New

Reason for Reading: I read a great review somewhere, but I can no longer remember where.

For the life of me, I can no longer remember where I heard about this terrific read. I know it was one of the first books I took as a recommendation when I started reading book blogs late last year. Regardless of where I heard about it, I really only have one thing to say about it; I love you Mary Gooch! The Wife’s Tale was something of a special treat for me. Never before have I been able to identify with a character more than I could with Lori Lansens’ hefty, heartbroken protagonist.

On the eve of her silver anniversary, Mary Gooch lays awake listening to her bedside clock. Tick-tock, tick-tock, counting the moments until her husband will arrive home, counting the moments until the much anticipated coronary (surely it must be coming) and counting the moments of her life that have already been lost to misery. When her husband fails to come home one night, the morbidly obese Mary’s world is turned upside down. Amidst her confusion, anxiety and frequent trips to the refrigerator, she tries to convince herself that all is well; Mr. Gooch will come home. When she receives a note from her husband in the mail telling her that he has left her, Mary heads off on the biggest journey of her life, in an attempt to recapture the heart and mind of a man whose love she has for so long taken for granted. On her journey she will find so much more; her husband’s leaving will become the catalyst for a life-altering transformation in which Mary will unwittingly shed everything of the world she has known.

When I finished The Wife’s Tale, I was left with a sense of awe. I have never before felt that another person had any idea what it was like to be trapped in my mind and body. Lori Lansen did a seamless job of crawling into the mind of a fat person and exposing the collective psyche of the morbidly obese.

“She had thought one sleepless night, without a ladle of self-pity, that she was, quite literally, the elephant in the room. Her body seemed more illusory for the secrecy surrounding it. Her real weight? Her true size? Only she knew. Hiding food. Eating in private. Feeding the hungry body to which she’d been assigned, abiding with the frantic energy of want and want more.” The Wife’s Tale, page 25.

While large parts of the story are taken up by the goings on in Mary’s head, the foray into her mind does not come at the cost of plot. What it does do, is aid Lansens in creating some particularly well rounded characters who are anything but artificial.

I smiled, I laughed and I quite nearly cried. The full-of-figure will share a deep rapport with Mary while others will marvel at the desperation and helplessness of those stuck in the unbreakable cycle of overeating. While I didn’t much care for the end of Lansens’ story, which was a little too neat for my tastes, it did little to dampen my enthusiasm for this remarkable tale of profound loss and pronounced personal gain.

RATING: Hard to Bleat


About Robbie

Hi there, my name is Robbie Burns (no,really, that’s my name…hold the haggis jokes please) and I would like to welcome you to the Pink Sheep Cafe. I started this blog as a means of discussing books and all things literary in light of my perpetual isolation. At the time I began writing, I was living in Split, Croatia. There wasn’t much here in the way of English book clubs and I couldn’t work, so I badly needed something to help me bide my time. My partner and I have since left Croatia and returned to Canada to live in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. When we first moved back here, my blog writing sort of fell by the wayside, but now I seem to be back on track. I try to read and review a little bit of everything here; I think everyone can find something to their liking here. I find myself tending more towards more literary reads these days, but I also enjoy a lot of YA and children’s fiction. One of my ongoing goals is to work my way through all of the Nobel Laureates. My two most favorite authors are Timothy Findley and Halldor Laxness.
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6 Responses to The Wife’s Tale – Lori Lansens – Book Review

  1. Lu says:

    I’m SO GLAD the changed the cover for this book! Before it was a picture of some skinny legs and I couldn’t even get into the book because I was so distracted by those damn skinny legs.

  2. Lori Lansens says:

    I enjoyed your review and especially your candid comments about relating to the character of Mary Gooch. As the author of The Wife’s Tale I frequently receive messages at my website from readers who feel the way you do and have a deep understanding of the story and underlying themes. Regarding the cover art – there’s been much conversation about those slender legs on the American cover. The Canadian’s put a box of chocolate on the cover and some of the other foreign editions chose a joyful female face. I like the American cover and think it speaks to the content of the book. The cover art isn’t meant to be taken literally.
    I want you to know, Robbie, that I love Mary Gooch too. I still think of her everyday and hope that she is finding balance and peace.

    • Robbie says:

      Thanks for dropping in and filling us in on the covers Lori! It’s always a treat to hear from the author. I very much enjoyed The Wife’s Tale and I look forward to reading some of your other work.

  3. leeswammes says:

    I loved this book, read it recently. Glad you liked it too. First I thought it was just one of those women’s stories, but I really started to believe in the story and to admire Mary actions.

    Here’s my review:

  4. I liked this book as well, and will be looking forward to a few more by this author. Loved reading your thoughts.

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